LOCAL businesses are pressing the case for their missing funds to be returned to them after a two year wait.

Local accountant Jim Perman is questioning what has happened to the missing £10,000 which was recorded in the now defunct Largs Matters Limited in the 2019 accounts.

The steering group for Largs Matters, which ran the Business Improvement District in the town, stood down in October 2018, and the bank account was closed down.

Over 300 companies in the town paid an annual fee in to the funds of the business group, in order to join the initiative seven years ago.

Although a decision was met in September 2018 to wind down the project, cash resting in the bank account is yet to be returned to firms who paid the levy.

The project was the vehicle for a number of initiatives designed to raise the town’s profile, bringing a number of festivals such as food fayres and a classic car show.

The companies in the town paid an annual fee depending on the rateable value of their premises after a vote to join the initiative.

And a year on from when we reported that hundreds of local businesses remain in the dark about when thousands of pounds they invested to improve the town will be returned to them, the question has been asked again by Mr Perman.

Jim said: "The Largs Matters directors filed a striking-off application dated 19 May. As members, all the businesses in Largs would be due to receive notification within seven days. I haven’t been notified, and don't think anyone else has.

"The last accounts as at 31 March 2019 shows a bank balance of over £10,000, and office equipment with a value of £541.

"Where has the office equipment and the money gone?"

BID director Ron Muir said that due to the current difficulties they were 'not in a position to notify' local businesses and added that the money was being returned to North Ayrshire Council to 'divvy out'.

He said: "The council is not working to full capacity at the moment but the matter is in hand.

"There was a projector and projection equipment bought by Largs Matters and it is currently lying in my garage. Anyone is welcome to have it.

"It is disappointing that all these questions come now. There have been a lot of critics but none of them ever turned up at our BID meetings which we held on a regular basis in the town.

"We tried to engage with the businesses in Largs. "The council has the responsibility to divvy it up but the I don't think the businesses will get much back given that they have to divide £10,000 between 300 businesses in the town.

"It is a shame that the Largs BID died a death. It is the very thing we need now to bring people together during this coronavirus pandemic."

Independent councillor Ian Murdoch said: "I have continuously pursued to try and get the balance returned to the businesses in the town who paid the levy.

"I understand that the council's financial department are working on it but as with most things at the moment things have been put on hold because of the Covid-19 situation but I have been assured that the council's finance department have been working on it.

"There was around £20,000 transferred from Largs Matters Ltd to the Scottish Towns Partnership at the final full board meeting and this was to be used to finance the pursuit of a second BID term. As far as I am aware the survey conducted to establish whether the business's would support a second BID was paid for from the transferred funds and the decision was taken not to proceed.

"I would like to know why there is such a small balance of funds left."

"I have also asked that North Ayrshire Council does not distribute any funds until the four local councillors have attended a meeting with council officers to discuss the matter."

A spokesperson for North Ayrshire Council said: “Local authorities across the country have been tasked with dealing with the applications for the government’s Business Grant Scheme to help mitigate the impact of lockdown and the ongoing economic uncertainty.

“Both our business and finance teams are working tirelessly to process these applications as quickly as possible so that North Ayrshire’s businesses are provided with this lifeline financial support. So far, we have helped administer and distribute over £20million through the scheme.

“As soon as demand for the Business Grant Scheme starts to ease, our teams will begin to disburse the remaining sum from Largs BID to Largs BID members. These refunds will be based on the levy paid by each member and likely to range from £0.25 to £105, with an average refund of £24.17.

“We thank the Largs BID members for their patience on the matter.”