Croydon Town Centre Business Improvement District (BID) comes to an end on 31 March next year. Whether it has a future will depend on a ballot of businesses in November.
The Council’s Cabinet is being told on Monday 11 July that a successful ‘yes’ vote has the potential to unlock income of around £980,000 in 2017-2018. Of course if the Whitgift Centre was not being closed from January 2017, the income would be even greater.
The report does not give any statistics as to the number of businesses currently In the BID area including those exempt from paying the levy, the number which have paid the levy for this financial year, the number estimated to still be in business in November able to vote on renewal.
The BID area starts just north of West Croydon Station at Oakfield Rd, goes round Bedford Park across the Cherry Orchard Rd, round into Altyre Rd down to Barclay Rd, round down Park Lane to Coombe Rd, up the High St to Laud Rd, along Wandle Rd to Charles Rd and up Church Rd to Tamworth Rd, and back to the Station. Businesses in the zone includes Ruskin House and Matthews Yard. It does not include the businesses running down London Rd north of West Croydon Station
The draft priorities for the Croydon Town Centre BID for the five years from 1 April to be consulted on are:
- Pledge 1 – Investing in your safety
- Pledge 2 – Creating a great impression
- Pledge 3 – Delivering brighter streets
- Pledge 4 – Helping you in and around
- Pledge 5 – Bringing businesses together
Tony Blair’s Government brought in BIDS under the Local Government Act 2003.
‘A BID is a geographical area where businesses are invited to decide how to improve their trading environment, although the regulations don’t specify how that geographical area is formed. A local mechanism is used to progress the BID where non-domestic ratepayers occupying local business premises (known as hereditaments) pay an extra levy on top of the annual business rates for a fixed period. This additional funding is ring-fenced and spent at the discretion of the BID Board on a business plan of services and improvements within the BID area.’
For a BID to be set up 51% or more of voting business ratepayers in the proposed area (have to vote in favour in a secret ballot organised by the local authority.’
Only businesses are consulted as residents have no say.
The BID business plan must ‘include the range of new or expanded services and works over and above those provided by the local authority.’
The local authority must ‘demonstrate its intention to maintain its existing services to businesses within the geographical area of the BID for the duration of the BID through baseline agreements.’ It must also satisfy itself that the proposed BID meets the legal requirements and is robust.
In their paper to the Cabinet the officers argue that the benefits to the Council of BIDS are that they:
- contribute towards the key Council priority ‘to ensure that Croydon residents benefit from economic growth in the borough, and to ensure they have the opportunities to develop new or to expand existing local businesses, as well as, skills and qualifications to access decently paid jobs.’
- focus on economic regeneration within the district.
- deliver additionality against the Council’s priorities of crime and disorder & environmental improvements and sustainability.
- That better community cohesion from the events schedule planned by the BID to encourage footfall.
Croydon Town Centre BID was established in 2007. Whether it is extended or not it will mainly be remembered for its crass closure of the Visitor Centre at East Croydon Station.
There is also a BID in New Addington established in 2013, with a renewal ballot due in the autumn of 2017. Purley BID has been recently established with its renewal ballot being Autumn 2020. Coulson and Thornton Heath are interested in having BIDS.
The report makes it clear that ‘in light of current financial pressures the Council will not be in a position to contribute an annual voluntary contribution to supplement the compulsory levy’.
Some businesses are exempt from paying the levy: individual hereditaments below £40,000 per annum, ATM’s, places of worship and schools.
The Cabinet is being warned that ‘The risk of an area not embracing this potential is that investment needed to retain businesses, increased footfall and attract inward investment in a local district centre may not be forthcoming, compared with neighbouring areas where this opportunity is being exploited. At a time of austerity, Croydon, a significant commercial centre in South London, cannot risk losing the opportunity to regenerate its local business communities.’
BID Boards are expected ‘to monitor and regularly review the impact of proposals to ensure the benefits are delivered to all residents and businesses’ and take ‘appropriate …. action to ensure that those equality groups that currently face economic inequality are provided targeted support.’
The exclusion of London Rd businesses north of Oakfield from the Croydon Town Centre BID area reduces its equalities impact.