BID will be good value

THE voting period for the Bid4Bury project, which seeks to create a Business Improvement District in Bury St Edmunds, is now under way.Businesses within the designated area have until November 30 to return their ballot form, with the result expected to be announced the following day.

THE voting period for the Bid4Bury project, which seeks to create a Business Improvement District in Bury St Edmunds, is now under way.

Businesses within the designated area have until November 30 to return their ballot form, with the result expected to be announced the following day.

If approved, a supplementary rate will raise around �350,000 a year to fund initiatives including professional marketing and events to attract more shoppers and visitors, a programme of business support, improvements in security and the environment within the town centre and guaranteed funding for the town's Christmas lights.

Against the economic backdrop of recession, it is understandable if some business owners and managers think long and hard about voting in favour of an increased rates bill.


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But having thought about it, they would be well advised to vote “Yes”. The completion of the arc shopping centre, whatever one's view on its architecture and its impact on the historic town centre, has the potential to propel Bury several rungs up the regional ladder as a shopping destination.

And the fact that it has, as things have turned out, opened in the middle of a deep recession is all the more reason for the town to shout about itself and to make sure that it is presenting the best possible image to the new visitors attracted as a result.

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The supplementary levy will, if the BID is approved, equate 1.75% of rateable value which, on the evidence of the 90-plus BIDs running successfully elsewhere, is likely to represent very good value for money in the long run.

While a certain scepticism is always healthy in assessing new projects, the criticism levelled at the Bid4Bury plans is wide of the mark.

In particular, the BID organisation will not, as has been suggested, be a “Quango”, there being nothing “quasi” about its autonomy from the Government. The BID initiatives have been drawn up in direct response to the needs and wishes expressed by local businesses.

Another criticism has been that the additional rate will be used to fund services which the local authority or, in some cases, the police ought to be providing anyway.

But with, for example, street rangers now being funded by BIDs elsewhere, including Ipswich, why would St Edmundsbury council or Suffolk Constbulary fund them directly?

Providing the current level of local authority provision and the proposed additions are plainly ringfenced from each other, the BID should offer genuine improvements - and, of course, many of the proposals, not least in terms of marketing and events, are well outside the scope of the council anyway.

n For more details of the BID proposal, visit www.bid4bury.com.

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