Published: 12:08, 11 July 2019
| Updated: 10:18, 11 November 2019
Disgruntled traders are threatening to take legal action as votes on whether to retain a divisive city centre improvement scheme are counted behind closed doors tomorrow (Friday).
Businesses have gone to the ballot box to decide if the Canterbury Business Improvement District (BID) should be given a second term.
The initiative is funded through a mandatory levy paid by all traders within the city centre, whether they support BID or not.
But only council chief executive Colin Carmichael and his “election team” will be present at the count - despite the local authority backing BID with 15 votes itself.
Revivals store owner Debbie Barwick, a long-time opponent of the initiative, says the process is “absolutely crazy”.
“To have Mr Carmichael - who has a number of votes in his name - running the count is a joke,” she said.
“It simply cannot be democratic to have him do it. How can it be right to have the count in private?
“We’re very angry about it.”
A total of 752 votes from property owners and traders will be counted, with BID needing to secure more than 50% of the share.
Mrs Barwick is demanding tomorrow’s BID count “be voided with immediate effect”.
“We further bring into question the validity of the 2014 Canterbury BID ballot result,” she added.
If voted in for a second term, BID will continue to operate in the city centre for a further five years.
Among the initiatives it funds are Christmas lights, street cleaning, floral displays, as well as marketing and investing in events.
In response to the criticisms over the secret count, council boss Mr Carmichael states all aspects are legally sound.
An email sent to Mrs Barwick reads: “I confirm that I have conducted the ballot in accordance with all the legal advice I have obtained, which I have had regularly confirmed, as you have raised your points during the process.
“I will, therefore, continue to conduct the ballot in accordance with that advice, and to declare the result on Friday.”
Mr Carmichael has also previously reiterated that he “won’t be allowing anyone other than myself or the election team” to be present at the count.
More by this authorJoe Wright