Chichester BID’s company change broke regulations, judge decides

The case took place at Worthing Magistrates' Court. Picture: Liz Pearce
The case took place at Worthing Magistrates' Court. Picture: Liz Pearce

A change of the company used to spend Chichester Business Improvement District (BID) funds was a ‘not in accordance with the law’, a judge has decided.

The judgement comes after Chichester District Council, which collects the business levy tax on behalf of the BID, took tearoom owner Michael Schneider to court last week.

They are clearly something the council will now need to address

District judge Amamda Kelly

Mr Schneider, who owns JVoke Vintage Tearoom in the Hornet, had refused to pay part of his business levy because he said the BID company was changed without notifying businesses.

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District judge Amamda Kelly said on Friday: “The inevitable conclusion is Mr Schneider is liable to pay the BID levy.”

She said any breach of regulations by the BID concerning the transfer of funds did not affect the need for businesses to pay the levy.

She added: “Mr Schneider has brought to light a significant error in the deed of March 28. 2017 in that it has been drafted between the council and the Chichester City Centre CIC [rather than] Chichester BID Ltd.

“Mr Schneider’s defence of this case has alerted the council to the fact that whilst they are acting lawfully in collecting the BID levy, they do not appear to be acting in accordance with the law at the present time by passing on that levy to a company that has no legal right to receive it because the change in BID company was not the subject of a ballot.

“Had Mr Schneider not raised the questions that he has, these important matters may never have been identified or addressed.

“They are clearly something the council will now need to address, insofar as they have not already done so, as a matter of urgency.”

The council came to court seeking £34.66 levy for part of 2016-17, £125 for 2017-18 and a £50 summons fee. During the trial at Worthing Magistrate’s Court Mr Schneider agreed to pay the £34.66.

Judge Kelly ordered him to pay the £125 and the £50 summons fee, but refused the council’s application for costs because of Mr Schneider’s ‘exceptional public service’ in bringing the issues to light.