Businesses in Coventry should have a second chance to vote on a "Business Improvement District", an MP has demanded.
Plans for the district, which is designed to help local industry succeed, were approved by firms in a ballot last year. It is paid for by a supplementary fee added to business rates.
But many employers knew nothing about the scheme until bills started arriving on their doorstep, said MP Geoffrey Robinson (Lab Coventry North West).
Mr Robinson, a former senior Treasury minister and former Chief Executive of Jaguar, said only a minority of firms had taken part in the original ballot.
The district, known as "Coventry Best for Business", began its work last October, and will last for five years.
It is managed by representatives of local businesses, Coventry City Council and Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce.
The aim is to help local firms succeed by funding projects such as CCTV cameras to cut crime, business advisers and broadband services.
But speaking in the House of Commons, Mr Robinson said: "To my knowledge, neither in my office in Coventry, nor down here, have we been contacted by a single company in the whole of Coventry in support of the Business Improvement District."
However, five businesses had contacted him to complain about the district, he said.
One firm had told him that they had not even known it existed until they received a for bill £16,000, representing a 1.5 per cent increase in their business rates.
"It was a bitter blow to learn about the £16,000 supplementary rates bill from the Business Improvement District promoters, the idea of which is to ensure that Coventry continues to be seen as the best place from which to do business.
"I told the chief executive of the Business Improvement District company that the best thing to do to ensure that Coventry is seen as a good place to do business from is to reduce the business rate, which would be welcomed all round.
"People would flock to Coventry if the rate was significantly reduced; otherwise, it will become increasingly difficult to sell."
Mr Robinson said businesses should have the chance to vote again on whether they wanted the district at all.
"We should reissue the offer and say, ’This is what is now being offered to you. Do you still wish to continue with the Business Improvement District?’ Let us see what response we get."
His comments were echoed by fellow Coventry MP Jim Cunningham (Lab Coventry South), who said: "This plan may have good intentions, but it could quite easily deter investment from coming into Coventry given the present economic climate. Those matters should be considered when we look at the levies mentioned."
Local Government Minister Parmjit Dhanda told the Commons that Business Improvement District’s had been successful across the country.
He said: "The purpose of Business Improvement Districts is to encourage local authorities and businesses to work together for the benefit of their local communities."
Speaking after the debate, Stephen Welch, chief executive of Coventry Best for Business, said: "We have met with Mr Robinson twice and are obviously concerned about the issues he raised."
He added: "Coventry City Council, as the balloting authority, was responsible for the distribution of all voting documentation and the process fulfilled all the legal requirements.
"The legislation requires a simple majority vote for a Business Improvement District to be adopted and while everyone would like a massively high turnout for every democratic process, we know that is rarely the case. In fact, the recent local elections for the city council attracted just 32 per cent."
He said: "On a wider note, the Business Improvement District has already achieved some notable successes and there are plenty more to come.
"Coventry Business Park is one of the furthest advanced sites in the city and we are hoping its new CCTV camera system, supplied by the Business Improvement District, will be online in July."