BUSINESSES have called for greater transparency from the group behind Abingdon BID as tempers flare over how money is being spent.

It is just over two years since 58 per cent of 148 businesses voted in favour of the Abingdon Business Improvement District, which promised to transform the town centre with everything from free WiFi to lobbying for a 24/7 multi-storey car park.

Businesses in the BID area now pay 1.75 per cent of their rateable income into a ring-fenced fund – predicted to total £800,000 over five years – which is to be used to run the BID projects.

But business owners have revealed they don't think they are getting their money's worth.

An group of independent traders are calling for an annual general meeting, a full breakdown of costs and for more communication about what their money is being spent on.

The business owners, who do not want to be named, estimate two thirds of businesses are now opposed to BID and said things had deteriorated since a meeting in June when traders raised concerns with those behind the scheme.

Stuart Dingle, one of the directors of Vineyard bike shop Pedal Power, agreed dissatisfaction was high and said: "I think a lot of businesses are quite unhappy that we have no choice in whether to pay the charge.

"We haven't noticed any improvement in trade here but even if they did we haven't got the infrastructure in place to make increased footfall work."

He added the meeting held this summer did little to allay concerns, saying: "They couldn't answer any of our questions and didn't seem to have any figures.

"It was quite embarrassing for them and they didn't seem organised at all.

"I think if there was any way for the town to get out of this, businesses would take it."

Peter Langston, owner of clothing store Clockwork Dragon, in Bath Street, was more optimistic, stating: "If you had asked me six months ago then I would have agreed it felt like they weren't doing anything but I will say a Halloween treasure hunt they organised around the shops was really good and improved my sales."

"As a small business I've been helped with rates quite a lot by the district council but I can understand how other businesses who pay more towards BID would be frustrated."

Julie Downing, manager of Abingdon BID, defended the work she and the board have been doing to promote the town, and said they were working on a five year plan.

She said: "Now in year two, the BID is achieving and communicating those achievements through all platforms."

She pointed to the Visit Abingdon social media and website, marketing through Experience Oxfordshire and Oxford Bus Company and working with the district council on having the multi-storey car park open on Sundays leading up to Christmas.

Ms Downing added the annual report, available online, laid out the accounts as set out in the business plan that the businesses voted on.

Of the June meeting, she said: "A small group of businesses had already decided that it was their opportunity to vent about everything that they perceive to be wrong with the BID.

"The board felt that an AGM would be a repeat of the June meeting which would not be productive for anyone, so the decision was taken to invite all the levy payers, not just those who attended the meeting, to meet and discuss any issues at any time."