Kingston set to become UK’s first Business Improvement District

Businesses will get more say in town centre management

Kingston upon Thames will make history as the first borough to vote whether to become a Business Improvement District (BID).

The ballot, taking place on 18 October, will invite the local business community to have their say in how Kingston’s Town centre is managed.

 

Announced by the government in April 2000, BIDs aim to improve town centre management through sustainable funding from local businesses.

Based on a concept from the U.S, the scheme will enable local authorities to collect a levy from firms, with contributions starting at £3 to £4 for smaller businesses.

The Kingston BID is projected to create a total spend of £4 million over five years.

BIDs are also being piloted in other parts of the country, including Liverpool.

With enough ‘yes’ votes, local businesses will be able to invest in better street cleaning, better marketing and counter traffic congestion schemes, all geared towards improving retail turnover in the long term, according to the government.

Sue Walters, managing director of Kingston Town Centre Management, said: “Extra investment in Kingston is crucial if we are to convince shoppers and town centre users it is a first class destination.

“Every business, from the smallest to the largest, should consider the BID proposal seriously in the light of how it can turn around the drop in visitor numbers, increase trade, create opportunities for businesses to grow and the town centre to flourish.”

Over one million daytime shoppers have been lost since Kingston dropped from 12th to 17th in a league of shopping destinations, leading to growing concern whether its town centre services can keep up with the areas booming retail, leisure and entertainment sectors.

However, not everybody believes BID’s have the interests of small businesses at heart.

Earlier this year Bill Moyes, British Retail Consortium director general, showed his disaproval towards the scheme, believing the government are shirking their responsibilities and ‘squeezing more and more from businesses.’

Ballot papers are being sent out to each business rate payer in the area and votes must be registered by 15 November, with the result announced the following day.

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