AN ANDOVER businessman is objecting to pay the levy to the body charged with boosting the town’s high street – and others are considering following suit.

Kevin Farrer, owner of International Furniture, has said he will not pay towards the Andover Business Improvement District (BID) as he claims it has been brought in ‘undemocratically’.

He says the reason the BID was voted in was due to Test Valley Borough Council (TVBC) being able to cast 13 votes.

The BID vote passed 70 to 67 in the ballot taken towards the end of last year.

BIDs are set up as partnerships between councils and business to boost trade in town centre areas.

Mr Farrer’s stance comes after the secretary of state for housing, communities and local government confirmed that Andover BID will be launched on April 1 and a challenge to void the vote failed.

The businessman, who previously claimed he would quit the town centre if the BID was voted in, said: “I am not going to pay the BID, I will go to court, I will appeal it in court – they want all of the money up front. It is £1,000 of my hard-earned money.

“I have got to take £10,000 [to pay for it] because that is what my profit would be.

“We have been forced into paying this levy. It is a stealth tax, it has been so undemocratic and the way it has been brought to the table, underhanded is not the word.

“It has not been democratic, it has been forced on the struggling local retailers.

“Test Valley Borough Council have certainly got my back up and a lot of other retailers.”

BID bosses have said that they are “disappointed” that Mr Farrer, and potentially others, are deciding not to pay.

Owner of Mooch, in Bridge Street, Georgina Roberts is also considering on whether to boycott the payment.

“Strictly speaking this is going to affect the shopkeepers rather than Test Valley Borough Council. If they hadn’t had their 13 votes it would have been a no.”

Ms Roberts says she will have to pay £425 to the BID on top of her £10,000 business rates.

“Obviously it is a big amount, and this is a small business – it is another overhead. I don’t know what I will do, I am undecided, I know a few people who said they won’t pay it. My staff are my main priority.”

But Graham Walters, from Test Valley Models, says that he will reluctantly pay the levy.

He said: “It is a pure joke that the secretary of state has approved this to go through. The majority of the businesses in the town don’t want it.”

Chair of the BID steering group Kevin Paterson said: “It will be disappointing if businesses decide to go down that route. There is a real opportunity with the BID, lets get behind this BID, as it is going ahead, and make it a huge success for the high street.”

Actions can be taken if a business decides not to pay the levy including a court summons.

A TVBC spokesperson said: “The council will pass all levy payments to the BID company. The authority is under a duty to collect any outstanding levy payments in the same way as outstanding business rates. Money collected for Andover Town Centre BID Ltd. is for the sole purpose of enhancing business in the town centre.

“The ballot was undertaken in accordance with the BID regulations and this was confirmed by the secretary of state’s decision to uphold the ballot. As the council will also be paying the BID levy in respect of its town centre assets he expressly supported the council’s right to vote in favour of the proposal.”