NEWCASTLE'S business improvement associations have boycotted a meeting with council about a review into their operations, saying the review process was not "fair, open or transparent".
A public voice session had been scheduled for Tuesday, but none of the business improvement associations (BIAs) registered to speak.
The BIAs issued a media release on Tuesday outlining their concerns about the review and proposed changes to the way they operate.
They say the review presents more questions than answers and they have fears businesses will lose their voice and independence under a new funding model.
"Businesses will no longer be able to speak up or challenge this council because, if they do, they will not receive funding," Newcastle Now chair Edward Duc said.
The review proposes the city's BIAs receive no more than $100,000 in automatic funding from special levies on commercial ratepayers in five Newcastle suburbs.
Levy funds raised beyond $100,000 in a precinct would be thrown open to competition between the BIAs and other groups. The contestable funds, predicted to total about $800,000, would be added to the council's existing economic development and event sponsorship programs for allocation.
Hamilton Businesses Association chair Nathan Errington said there was "still a lot of unknowns" about the proposed model and the associations believed they would not have got "fair representation" at the meeting.
City of Newcastle CEO Jeremy Bath had informed the BIAs before the meeting they would likely be questioned on their past operations.
The BIAs also questioned why the council had called for tenders for administrative support to the BIAs - an outcome of the review - before the review had been endorsed by council and while it was still on exhibition.
"This only supports our belief that the council has had a predetermined outcome," Mr Duc said.
Mr Bath said he had informed the BIAs of the support officer role, which will assist in the preparation of their business plans and acquittal reports, in December.
"Council has made clear that, going forward, ratepayers' funds must be spent on events and projects that activate the city, not predominantly on administration and employees," he said.
"It's both ironic and disappointing that Newcastle Now and Hamilton Chamber of Commerce allege a lack of transparency while refusing an invitation from the council to openly discuss their operations and opportunities under the new model."
Mr Duc said there had been a "complete breakdown in the relationship" between the council and the city's business community.
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