King William IV landlord loses Hampstead business levy legal challenge
But judge blasts council for failures and mistakes
29 April, 2019 — By Tom Foot
Jimmy McGrath outside Highbury Magistrates’ Court at an earlier hearing
A COURT has ruled against a pub landlord who refused to pay a controversial business levy.
Jimmy McGrath told Highbury Magistrates’ Court his King William IV pub should not have to pay around £600 to the Hampstead Village Business Improvement District because it was a “scam”.
He said he had not been properly consulted or informed about the scheme that collects 1.5 per cent of rates from each business in Hampstead to fund improvements to the area.
Mr McGrath, who has run pubs in Camden for decades, argued that it was not clear what the levy was being spent on and because he was “IT illiterate” he could not have checked the website, as instructed by the council tax officials.
District judge Julia Newton’s judgment, read out over an hour and a half, said Camden Council – which is legally responsible for collecting BID levy – had “failed” to properly send out information about the BID to businesses, including the King William IV.
Julia Newton said that because Mr McGrath did not own a computer the council should have sent hard copies of all the information along with the BID bill. She said it was not enough, as the council had done, to simply send a link to website and expect McGrath to find the information for himself. This was a “serious” and “important” flaw in the BID process, her judgment said.
She said: “London Borough of Camden has failed to supply information. There was no agreement with Mr McGrath that he could receive the information via a website. He explained he did not have a computer, and is IT illiterate.”
But she said that the fact the council made this “mistake” did not mean Mr McGrath did not have pay the levy, adding: “The failure to provide information does not necessarily invalidate the notice.” She added: “There is no doubt that Mr McGrath is motivated by genuine sense of grievance. He is taking a stand.”
Because of the split nature of the decision, the magistrate halved legal costs to be paid by Mr McGrath to £6,264.25.
Outside court, Mr McGrath said “it’s not over til it’s over” and his QC barrister said they would consider an appeal.
The BID was introduced in 2016 after a ballot of Hampstead business in the area. Mr McGrath took over the King William IV a year later.
The BID said in a statement: “Given the good momentum being built up in Hampstead through the BID, we are pleased that today Highbury Corner magistrates court has ruled against one business who wished to challenge the London Borough of Camden on the technical detail contained within the billing information. That said, while the court ruled that the liability to pay the levy remains, the judge did highlight an administration issue that has already been addressed by both Camden and the BID.
“We are delighted to be working with a new Executive team, appointed in early January, providing a more all encompassing level of administration to support the BID Manager. We are committed to delivering against the mandate set at the BID ballot – to support local businesses and help Hampstead Village to thrive. Much work has already been done and we are excited about what the BID can achieve in the coming years.”