VOTING in the big ballot on plans to transform the fortunes of Bradford city centre starts in just three weeks’ time.
And the man leading the team behind the £2.5 million, five-year project is urging businesses to get their votes in early.
“The ballot papers will be issued on September 13 and businesses have until 5pm on October 11 to get their vote in,” said Ian Ward, chair of the Business Improvement District (BID) development board.
“But it’s really important that everyone uses their vote and we want to ensure as high a turnout as possible.”
Electoral Reform Services, the independent organisation which is running the ballot, will tell the BID team when businesses and other city centre organisations have voted but not how they have voted until the result is declared on October 12.
“We won’t know how people have voted but, if we know who has returned their ballot paper, we can chase up the remaining eligible firms to ensure they have received it and know when the deadline is,” said Mr Ward. “So the sooner people vote, the better we can make sure everyone’s voice is heard.
“We also need to bear in mind it’s a postal vote so we don’t want anyone to lose their vote because they posted it too late to arrive for the count at ERS.”
More than 630 companies and organisations, including arts groups such as The Brick Box (pictured), are entitled to vote in the ballot to establish the BID and it needs a majority of those who take part in the ballot, representing at least half of the total rateable value of the area, to “Vote Yes” if it is to go ahead.
If the ballot is successful, the BID will raise more than £2.5 million over five years to spend on projects to improve the city centre. The money is collected in a levy at the same time as business rates but goes straight to the BID so it can provide services over and above those delivered by Bradford Council.
A small business with a rateable value of £15,000 will pay just £3.61 per week; a medium-sized business with a rateable value of £65,000 would pay £15.63 per week; and the weekly cost to a large business with a £150,000 rateable value is £36.06.
Businesses with a rateable value of below £12,000 will be exempt from the ballot and the levy but they will still enjoy the benefits if the BID goes ahead.
The BID Business Plan, which sets out the agenda for the next five years, shows that the cash will be spent in roughly equal amounts on four key areas, dubbed Clean, Safe, Alive and Promoted.
A series of projects under each banner will aim to help ensure the city centre is clean and welcoming, safe and secure at any time of day or night, is brought to life with more events, street markets and entertainment and is widely promoted while giving businesses a united voice to lobby on its behalf.