CamdenNewJournal

The independent London newspaper

King William IV pub landlord faces court in business levy rebellion

Jimmy McGrath says he does not see why he should have to pay BID money

11 October, 2018 — By Tom Foot

Jimmy McGrath

THE landlord of one of Hampstead’s most famous pubs is due to appear in court today (Thursday) after refusing to pay a controversial business levy.

Jimmy McGrath, who runs King William IV in Hampstead High Street, says he is taking a stand against the demands of Hampstead Village Business Improvement District (BID).

He has been summonsed to appear at Highbury Corner Magistrates’ Court after refusing to pay.

“I don’t really understand why anyone pays it, to be honest,” Mr McGrath told the New Journal. “What does it do anyway?”

The BID scheme was set up in September 2016 after a ballot of businesses in the area found 73 were in favour, and 38 opposed. Businesses pay an extra charge, beyond their normal rates, to fund improvements to the area which will “drive footfall” to shops.

The BID says it will invest £1.2million until 2021 in projects that will “sustain the village’s unique atmosphere”. Businesses are billed 1.5 per cent of their rateable value in an annual levy.

Mr McGrath, who says he is charged around £400 a year, says he will not pay “on principle”. “I wasn’t in the pub when this was introduced,” he said. “I wasn’t consulted. I just got the bills. If the BID installed public toilets in Hampstead I’d pay it. Everyone uses the pub as a public toilet. I don’t mind but it all costs money in the end.”

Council finance chief Councillor Richard Olsz­ewski said the business had a legal obligation to pay, adding: “BIDs have a track record of saving local businesses money by, for example, striking collective deals for energy and recycling.”

King William IV

The council said a “clear majority” of businesses backed the BID, a not-for-profit company run by a sole paid employee, Caroline Goldsack. She said: “As with any bill, if there is an outstanding payment and no action is taken, the matter will escalate.” She added that she had spoken to Mr McGrath about his concerns and promised to put his public toilet suggestion “on my list”, adding: “I never say impossible.”

Ms Goldsack said that since it was set up the BID had got pavements washed, installed flower baskets and funded Christmas lights. She added that it had successfully challenged miscalculated rates for businesses in Heath Street, saving “around £2.5million for 40 businesses”.

It also contests or supports planning applications, including free wifi “tombstones” proposed for Hampstead High Street. The BID funds and organises a Christmas fair, which is due to be held on December 2 this year.

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