Posters spell out traders' stance in levy wars

HUNDREDS of posters have been displayed across Warrnambool’s city centre as businesses voice their concerns en masse about a contentious marketing levy.

Brightbird Espresso owner Mark Brightwell displays a poster opposing the proposed marketing levy.

Brightbird Espresso owner Mark Brightwell displays a poster opposing the proposed marketing levy.

Warrnambool Traders Action Group (WTAG) has called on the commercial and industrial sector to oppose the initiative, warning the rates-linked levy could succeed through public apathy.

Cafes, clothing stores, restaurants and other retailers have expressed their distress over the initiative spearheaded by Commerce Warrnambool, which would tax businesses to bankroll a comprehensive marketing campaign.

WTAG spokeswoman Amanda Lowen said businesses wanted both the city council and Commerce Warrnambool to clearly explain the levy’s implementation process. The Piccolo Restaurant co-owner said concern over the levy was widespread.

“I still haven’t come across anybody in business that actually supports this levy. There’s a lot of concern out there,” Mrs Lowen said.

“The number of people that have got involved and put up a poster has been inspiring. We had one lady who saw some of the posters around town and wanted to put up some in her own store. 

“I think it clearly shows what the level of feeling is out there about the levy.”

Brightbird Espresso is one of several businesses to display the poster in its front window. 

The cafe’s owner-operator Mark Brightwell said the proposed levy has been a topic of debate across the city, with a number of business owners feeling they have not been properly consulted.

“The way I see it and many other people see it, the levy is paying for an unnecessary double-up,” Mr Brightwell said. 

“The council already covers a lot of our city-wide marketing so we don’t see the need for Commerce Warrnambool to be doing the same.”

Commerce Warrnambool’s business district improve-ment program would result in more than 1000 businesses paying a special levy through council rates which will bankroll a comprehensive marketing strategy.

Mrs Lowen said a similar marketing levy in Swan Hill succeeded without majority business support at the time of its implementation with only 19 per cent backing the plan against 24 per cent opposed. 

She said 57 per cent did not bother to vote at the time.

“It’s still unclear when or how the council is going to organise the vote on the levy,” Mrs Lowen said. “There needs to be a lot more clarity from the city council because businesses want some certainty.”

Warrnambool City Council was contacted for comment yesterday but did not respond in time for deadline.

WTAG posters can be obtained through Mrs Lowen at Piccolo Restaurant or through the group’s Facebook page.

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