Businesses are, by their nature, concerned with the bottom line. It is little wonder then that the spending of a $1.34 million levy collected from them is something they are examining for its efficiency in helping them out.
City of Newcastle says it is attempting to find the best and most cost-effective way to support businesses in the city. It has cited "breaches" in funding agreements to ban Newcastle Now and Hamilton chamber from seeking a share of the levy scheme. Traders will surely measure that move by how well the new model delivers.
Business owner James Cobb raises the idea of scrapping the levy and allowing businesses to go it alone as an independent coalition. He cites concerns about how unused funds may be used given these organisations specifically paid into the pot.
"I'm paying an extra grand a year in rates that the guy around the corner from me doesn't pay. And I've got no say now in how those funds are spent, and no one's able to give me any information on how they will be spent," he told the Newcastle Herald. "I've asked what's going to happen to the funds that are left over if they're not allocated, and no one's given me an answer."
Transparency on those matters is paramount. The council says it will take no further action on the funding until after the guidelines for the funds' use is considered at August 27's full council meeting. That will likely provide a clearer picture of how applicants who made the August 9 expressions of interest deadline are assessed. Those parties might have wanted those guidelines in place while they were preparing those bids. But the new rules are unlikely to help those who found the application itself onerous.
Events in Hamilton including China Week and Carnivale have proven drawcards, but they do not simply occur in a vacuum. They take time, effort and funding to produce annually at a standard that will keep crowds engaged. Outsourcing some of that effort has resulted in a return on investment for those levies paid. It would be a shame to see the events fall by the wayside, but it is equally understandable if traders balk at organising such large-scale events in addition to running their businesses, particularly if it also potentially requires a battle through bureaucracy. Given these events and the levy scheme are designed to offer traders a boost, perhaps those at the coalface can help shape the best possible system.