THE ‘No’ vote by some of the big players in the town centre could see Dunfermline lose out on £2 million investment and scupper major events like the fireworks display and Christmas lights switch-on.

National companies and multi-business owners have been blamed for the demise of Dunfermline Delivers, the Business Improvement District (BID) company that lost its bid for re-election last Friday.

While there was a simple majority in favour, the deciding factor was the combined Rateable Values (RV) of the businesses.

Chairman Lloyd Pitcairn said: “The 99 small businesses in Dunfermline that voted ‘Yes’ only had an RV of just over £3 million, whilst the 51 who voted ‘No’ had an RV of just over £4m.

“In other words, some large multi-national companies and some multi-business owners voted against the continuation.”

Vice-chairman Neil Mackie added: “It’s a secret ballot so there’s no way of knowing who did vote against it. I don’t think all the blame lies there but the indications are that it was national companies.

“You just have to look at the news to see how screwed some of these companies are. If they’re sitting with millions of pounds deficit in their trading figures they’re going to be looking to cut costs as much as they possibly can.

“It’s short-sighted and it doesn’t help the local economy but it’s likely a decision made by a person in an accounts office that’s probably never even heard of Dunfermline. It would simply be a store number on a balance sheet.”

The BID company has been operational since 2009 and won its first renewal vote in 2014.

Around 400 traders paid an annual levy which, together with grants from other groups and funding from Fife Council through the City of Dunfermline area committee, was then spent by Dunfermline Delivers for the betterment of the town centre.

This included major events such as the fireworks in Pittencrieff Park, the Christmas lights switch-on, Outwith Festival, Food and Craft Weekend as well as a whole range of initiatives and business support, such as the Purple Flag award for night-time safety, bus and taxi marshals, floral enhancement scheme and shopfront grants.

It added up to an annual investment of around £400,000 in the town centre, £2m over the five-year term, but that model’s now been rejected. 

It means that, while the Outwith Festival will go ahead this year, there's no guarantee that anything else will and the BID company, headed by manager Lisa Edwards, will finish at the end of September.

Dunfermline Delivers chairman Lloyd Pitcairn said: “The big guys carry such a huge RV that if they decide to vote, you don’t stand a chance. We could’ve had another 150 local businesses voting in favour and it wouldn’t have mattered.

"It’s heartbreaking for the staff and everyone involved. Lisa’s making such a difference to this town.”

He thanked all those who had supported them and continued: “The local traders that have contacted us are pretty furious and can’t believe it.

"A lot of other towns are struggling but Dunfermline is doing well, punching above its weight and it’s been recognised nationally with Lisa getting awards for Dunfermline Delivers being a showcase BID. It’s crazy but what can you do?”

Councillor Helen Law, convener of the City of Dunfermline area committee, said: “It’s galling when they clearly won the vote. Normally, getting two-thirds of a vote is a great result, but not here.

“It’s really disappointing as the BID company have been at the forefront of a lot of the good things in Dunfermline.

“We’ve got to find some way of taking that forward and we’re going to get together next week to see what can be done; at this point we don’t know what this will look like.

“Dunfermline has been doing great compared to other towns across the country and losing Lisa and her team would be a huge blow.”

Dunfermline and West Fife MP Douglas Chapman said: “I fear that town centre businesses may regret their decision to have Dunfermline Delivers wound up.

"There are many things we can do to improve our town centre but letting go of a force for good is not the way forward.”

He added: “I feel very sorry for the Dunfermline Delivers team as they were always prepared to roll up their sleeves and do their best for the town centre.

"Given their track record, they will be snapped up by perhaps one of our competitor towns, and that’s not a good outcome for Dunfermline either. It’s a very sad day.”

Green MSP for Fife Mark Ruskell added: “It seems deeply unfair that despite a two-thirds majority in favour of renewal, the bigger businesses in town get to overrule the decision.

"I’ll be asking the Scottish Government to review this as a matter of urgency.”

While it’s not known how they voted, on Monday we asked a number of national companies, Next, M&S, Debenhams, Sports Direct and Boots, if they backed the BID and why / why not. None responded.