Sunday, 29 May 2011

Crucial election result to be declared this Tuesday

The people of Liverpool are probably generally sublimely unaware that a crucial election campaign is being fought in the very heart of Liverpool and the result will be declared on Tuesday.

Businesses in the Commercial District are voting on whether to become a fully fledged Business Improvement District. Additional funding for developing this fundamentally economically important district of Liverpool hang on a successful "yes" vote.

Liverpool has been a trail blazer for Business Improvement Districts. City Central Bid is already a great success and people like Ed Oliver and Gerrard Gibbons have made it an indispensable feature of the City Centre's management. BID Pioneer Paul Rice (see photograph below) has driven the campaign to develop and found Liverpool's second BID and everything comes to a climax on Tuesday.

On a personal level, and not simply because I am a member of the Executive Board of Liverpool's BID company, this is a crucial vote. Many years ago I approached the Director of Regeneration at the North West Development Agency with a short paper recommending that the NWDA support Business Improvement Districts. At that time the Labour Government was considering introducing legislation based on an american model. The Director agreed that we should try and give the north west a head start and put me in charge of running a pilot to stimulate the development of BIDs in the north west. Liverpool BID was one of the pilots that were supported through this project. The North West became the leading region in the country, outside of London, for the formation of BIDs as the pilots were ready to go to a vote of businesses as soon as the legislation was in place.
BIDs work on the democratic principle of local businesses deciding collectively on a levy based on their rates which is then spent exclusively to support those businesses through providing things like additional security, cleaning, promotional events and through this having a direct impact on businesses' bottom lines. The additionality is very important and the levy must not be used to substitute for local authority provision.

Hopefully the yes vote will be delivered on Tuesday and then we can look at how the BIDs can be even more involved in city centre management. As Ed Oliver says, "It is time to take the BIDs to another level". Paul, Ed, Ged,myself and many businessmen who have supported a yes vote will be metaphorically chewing our nails as the results envelope is opened.

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