Hemel Hempstead gym owners say £4k bill for unwanted BID service could put their business at risk

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The gym did not want any part of the BID

Independent gym owners in Hemel Hempstead who received a ‘surprise’ £4,000 bill from the town’s BID service say the fee could put their business at risk.

The owners of Physique Gym, based in the Marlowes shopping centre, received the bill from the Business Information District, which is funded by traders to improve the town’s economy and local environment by running events and cleaning and safety schemes.

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The Hemel Hempstead BID was formed in 2018 and operates on a voting system every five years. It bases its mandatory fees on a percentage of a company’s business rate if they fall into the BID area.

The owners say the BID bill will put the business at risk of closure.The owners say the BID bill will put the business at risk of closure.
The owners say the BID bill will put the business at risk of closure.

The gym owners say they paid a BID invoice of £1,200, shortly after opening in 2019, although were unsure what it was for. They refused to pay a second bill a year later during lockdown when the business was closed.

Co-owner Lee-Ann said: “We should not be forced to be part of such a scheme that we derive no benefit from and is an unnecessary cost to an SME.

“We received very little funding during Covid due to our rateable value being what it is, but as good business practice, and after only being open for eight months, we furloughed our staff and retained them as well as paying our bills.

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“Having to pay the BID will put our business at risk of closure and will no doubt put staff out of work. What good is a scheme if it allows this to happen?”

The latest ballot in February 2023 had a 37 per cent turnout with 84 per cent of those businesses opting for the business-led body.

But co-owner Chris Alexander said the gym did not want any part of the BID – something he said had been ‘explicitly explained’ to board members.

Despite this, the company has been summoned to court this week, by Dacorum Borough Council, over the matter.

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Chris added: “This is bill is very costly and brings no benefit to our gym.

“We are living week to week paying our bills, the money just isn’t there to pay this bill and this isn’t a case of us being difficult.

“They can’t have what we haven’t got. I’ve had this business for nearly six years and haven’t even taken my investments back.”

But Dacorum Borough Council says The BID is payable by all businesses occupying premises within the BID area, irrespective of whether they voted in favour of the BID at the time of the ballot, and despite whether a business rates relief is applied. It says all businesses within the BID are made aware of the service and associated fee.

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A spokesperson said: “At a time of considerable change in Hemel town centre, where retailing patterns have changed substantially over the past few years, and as the council brings forward new plans for its future, it is considered that an active and vibrant BID is essential. The purpose of a BID is to provide services and activities that are over and above those provided by the local council and which are not only for improving the area but also to increase and encourage footfall into the town centre to support businesses grow and thrive.”