THE interim chairman of Abingdon BID’s advisory board has said she was ‘powerless’ to stop letters threatening legal action being sent to businesses.

Several traders who are part of the Business Improvement District have received demands for levy payments in recent weeks, despite it being subject to a financial audit by Vale of White Horse District Council.

The review was prompted by growing concerns about transparency from traders, who pay 1.75 per cent of their rateable income into a ring-fenced fund for the scheme, which is aimed at improving facilities and increasing footfall in the town centre.

Chairman Mel Inness said she had no control over debt-collection agency Capita, which sent the letters, and that the issue had been caused by the length of time taken to complete the review – requested on February 1 but not made public until last week.

She explained: “We were initially told it would take just a couple of weeks, but in fact it was a lot longer. Our hope was that we would have the results before the year three bills went out, that wasn’t the case.

“We tried to delay the bills but we were told that wasn’t possible.

“We then said that as we didn’t have the audit results, if the bills had to go out there should be no accompanying letter, we were informed by Capita that we were legally required to provide one.

“We were very aware that the timing of all these legal requirements could not have been worse but we were powerless to stop the process.”

The audit carried out by Vale is now available to view on the Abingdon BID website. It found that while there was no discrepancy in the scheme’s accounts, ‘stated income could be made clearer’ to provide ‘greater transparency’.

The letters are likely to add to growing resentment towards the scheme, which many traders have said they do not believe offers value for money.

This resulted in a petition signed by 102 traders being handed in to the district authority last month calling for the five-year scheme to close two years early.