What should St. Austell do with £130,000 a year to spend on its Town Centre?
The successful vote for adopting a BIDs scheme for St. Austell effectively means that there will be cash towards turning the Town Centre into a better place.
Watch the video to see what other BID schemes have done for their area
“So what’s BIDs?” my other half asked.
They’ll be a lot of people asking the same. A BID basically means a ‘Business Improvement District’ and even tho’ I personally hadn’t a vote my fingers were firmly crossed that St. Austell’s businesses would vote ‘Yes’.
The votes, in a formal ballot, were counted on Thursday 31st January, and with an overwhelming ‘Yes’ vote it showed majority support for the scheme. BIDs unlocks £600,000 of additional funding, specifically ring-fenced for St. Austell’s town centre, over the next five years…
Still don’t get it?
BIDs are about new investment, not about placing additional tax burdens on businesses. Where BIDs are successful, businesses will see a return on their levy. There is clear evidence of the success of BID schemes which have led to increased footfall, higher spending, cleaner, safer and more vibrant towns.
BIDs can operate for up to five years before businesses have the opportunity to renew the BID through voting on a new proposal. So far, 52 out of 58 BIDs that have been through renewal ballots have been approved and started a second five-year term, three out of three have renewed for a third term, demonstrating that businesses can see the benefits that the BID has delivered.
BIDs are driven by business for business benefit and operate within clearly defined geographical areas. Ratepayers, including those in the public and voluntary sectors, pay an extra levy (2% for ST Austell) on their rateable value, money that remains in a local fund to deliver projects to improve the local economy. This levy income can also be used to lever in additional funding during the lifetime of the BID programme.
BIDs are governed by businesses – a ‘not for profit’ BID Company is established with a board of directors who oversee the programme. The Board comprises private sector representation from businesses within the BID boundary, the majority, if not all, of whom are levy payers. Under the legislation, Cornwall Council is responsible for collection of the levy but then transfers this money over at regular intervals to the BID company to spend in accordance with the BID proposal.
BID schemes fund additional activities. Unlike business rates, the money doesn’t go to Central Government – it remains in St Austell to be spent in accordance with the final BID proposal developed in consultation with businesses.
Chris Witt, Chairman of the St. Austell BID Steering Group said, “This is a fantastic result for St Austell! After months of consulting, canvassing and convincing, this small group have achieved what we set out to achieve all those months ago. We have spoken to the businesses of the town and with limited funds, already addressed key issues raised – driving footfall and parking. A new Loyalty card has been launched and a cheap parking initiative trialled. Now look out! We have major resources to put our town back on the map and show everyone what St Austell is all about!”
Stephen Rushworth, Cornwall Council’s Portfolio Holder for Economy and Regeneration, said “I am delighted that businesses in St Austell are supporting this initiative. Nationally town centres are facing huge challenges and to see the local business community in St Austell coming together to steer the future of their town centre is very encouraging.”
From 1st April, £120,000 will be available to spend on projects that the businesses themselves have indicated as priorities, by being pro-active and dynamic in attracting local people and visitors to St Austell.
It will be interesting to see what they will do. Let’s hope for innovative and interesting schemes…rather than a ‘copy-cat’ conservative approach. A dynamic change to St.Austell’s current self-image would be pretty awesome…