AN ORGANISATION which aims to regenerate business and attract investment to Barrow town centre has defended itself after concerns were raised about its spending choices.

Bosses at Barrow Business Improvement District (BID) rebuffed concerns raised around the salary increase of the BID’s manager Colin Garnett.

Questions were also raised over the sums spent on events organised by Barrow BID such as June’s Super Soapbox Challenge, as well as the costs incurred for the installation of the town centre’s Christmas lights this year.

Responding to the concerns raised over the Soapbox spend, a Barrow BID spokesman said: “The board believe that for a first-year event that attracted thousands of people into Barrow town centre, that the net cost of £38,755 has been value for money.

"We have already been approached by other sponsors who want to be involved next year and we fully expect the net cost to fall.”

The statement comes after a group of ratepayers asked the group to justify an increase in Mr Garnett’s salary - having gone from £22,200 in 2018 to £40,838 in 2019 - and the BID’s choice of providers for this year’s town centre Christmas lights installation.

The group, known as Barrow BID Concerned Ratepayers (BBCR), also raised concerns around the BID’s transparency and the ‘value for money’ the BID represents for ratepayers who are all required to contribute to the group through a levy.

In 2018 Mr Garnett had two roles - BID manager and social media and marketing manager.

Barrow BID said in response to the salary increase concerns: “The figure of £40,838 in the 2019 accounts is a full year of Colin working at 30 hours a week.

“This role has continued to grow and therefore in July 2019 Colin requested that that the roles were combined into a 30-hour BID manager post.”

Mr Garnett added: “Although it says I’m paid for 30-hour weeks, I often work between 40 and 50 hours.

“I think we’ve made great strides this year in helping to set up positive initiatives for small businesses and in helping to foster a sense of pride in the town centre.

"I’d hope 99% of business owners are happy with what we’ve been trying to do for the town centre.”

“We’re happy to answer any questions Barrow town centre traders may have. If they do have any, I’d urge them to get in touch.”