Tuesday, 25 January 2011

A call to Coalville businesses

On 18 January the Cabinet of North West Leicestershire District Council considered a report about Business Improvement Districts (BIDS).

It is probably fair to say that very few people know what a BID is. Even many businesses have not got a clue what they are but the truth is in a very short time there could be one in Coalville and traders in the town could be faced with a new bill to pay.

In very simple terms a BID is a charge that is levied on traders in a defined area, which has been voted for by those businesses, for the express purpose of delivering projects which would not normally be paid for by local authorities.

If the BID is approved it will be in place for 5 years and would mean approximately £125,000.00 will be collected every year to be spent on projects in the town such as marketing or improving security. Any new businesses in the area would also  have to pay the levy and of course this would include any major supermarket developments if they were built during the BID period.

Of course, the aim is that the levy will increase footfall, boost the local economy and ultimately make the town a more vibrant place to live, work and spend money in.

For a BID to come into force a vote has to be taken of all businesses which would be affected and there must be a simple majority of identified levypayers AND a majority by rateable value.

The key issue however, and this is VERY important, is that the majority is only of those traders who actually vote. If a business doesn't vote then its views are not taken into account but they would still be legally obliged to pay the bill if the BID was passed.

In some BIDS around the country there has been a turnout of less than 30% of ratepayers and less than 20% of those liable for a levy have actually voted for its introduction.

Now there is a simple reason why this is important.

A business receives a vote for every property for which it is liable to pay rates. As a result although a BID is not driven by the council (or the money spent by them) the local authority will receive a number of votes. In fact the district council will account for around 7% of the total rateable value (and for paying 7% of the final bill).

At the Cabinet meeting last week it was recommended to councillors that the authority should vote 'Yes' in any BID ballot. As such in a very low turnout the council would have a very large influence on whether a vote is passed or not (and whether all businesses will receive a new bill).

Now I am not a town centre trader.

I have a personal view that based upon improvement districts elsewhere the introduction of a BID would be good for delivering economic regeneration (although the economic situation is obviously very tough at the minute and another bill may be difficult to pay), but to focus on that view really isn't the purpose of this blog.

The purpose of this entry is very straight forward and is a call to local businesses.

When the vote takes place in February / March please please take the time to cast your ballot.

A high turnout will mean that as a business community it will be clear as to whether the BID is accepted or rejected taking into account the views of everyone eligible to vote.

If businesses don't vote they really will not be in a position to complain if the outcome goes against their views. It is vitally important to take part.

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