TOWN centre management company Rugby First has come under fire from an independent shopkeeper and a borough councillor as its role comes under review.
Rugby Borough Council (RBC) is in the middle of a scrutiny review of the Business Improvement District (BID) company in advance of a vote on its mandate next June.
Helen Blamires, owner of Vanilla in Albert Street, claimed the review “put hardly any probing questions to Rugby First”.
“It is crucial to address the matter of the BID levy rate charged (to town centre businesses) in order to scrutinise the accountability of the annual RBC contribution to Rugby First.” she said.
“I cannot come to terms with the fact that RBC gives a private company such a large sum of money which they are then unable to adequately scrutinise how Rugby First spends it.”
Coun Jerry Roodhouse said he would like to company to be more transparent, claiming it was unclear from the accounts as to what BID levy payers are paying for.
But Mike O’Connor, Rugby First director and owner of Parriss Jewellers in Regent Street, defended the transparency of the company’s accounts.
He said: “The Rugby First Board consists of 18 Directors, all of which are from the local community, representing various town centre interests.
“It is independently audited (annually), open and accountable to its members and the accounts are published online.”
He added that annual spend and projected costs are sent out to all BID levy payers every year.
Coun Belinda Garcia, chair of the review, said: “The council launched the review to consider its financial investment in the town centre through its partnership with Rugby First and the value to the local economy this partnership delivers.
“The review also considers the implications for the council and the town centre should the BID mandate not be renewed next year.
“It would be inappropriate for the task group to draw any conclusions from the review until it has been completed. Our report is due to go to the council’s customer and partnerships committee on January 29.”
Rugby First was voted in for a second five-year term in 2010 with over 80 per cent in favour. A mid-term survey revealed 75% satisfaction.
BID members will vote on a third term in June, when they can decide the levy and how the budget is spent.
The review aims to report its findings to the council’s cabinet in early February 2015.