THE CRUCIAL ballot on the future of the proposed £2.5 million business improvement district for Bradford is underway at last!
More than 630 businesses and other organisations have just under a month to vote on whether they wish to pay an annual levy to provide a safer, cleaner, more animated and better promoted city centre over the next five years.
And the message from the group of business leaders who have spent more than 18 months planning and preparing for the ballot is simply: “Vote Yes!”
Ian Ward, chairman of the Bradford BID development board (pictured), said: “A lot of people have spent a great deal of time and effort building up to the moment when these ballot papers are delivered.
“Most of it has been donated voluntarily by a group of like-minded individuals – from shop owners to company directors – who, above all, want to see Bradford flourish for the benefit of all its businesses as well as those who live and work here.
“Our mission is simply to do everything in our power to make the centre of Bradford a better place to do business, a nicer place to work in, to live in and to visit, for the benefit of all who believe in this great city.
“We know we can’t achieve that overnight, and that £2.5 million will only go so far, but everything we do if the BID goes ahead will be an asset in building Bradford’s future.”
He said the key benefit of the BID would be to provide additional services and improvements that will not come from any other source.
“What businesses and voters have to be absolutely clear about is that, apart from the administrative cost of collecting it, not a penny of the money raised by the business levy will go to the Council or its coffers,” said Mr Ward.
“The Council has signed agreements over the minimum services they will provide and none of the BID levy will go towards paying for them.”
If the BID goes ahead, a limited company will be set up with 18 directors drawn from the business community to manage the funds.
“The cash will only be used by the BID and the decisions will only be taken by the business people running it,” said Mr Ward. “They will be bound by the business plan which was brought together through a major consultation exercise over many months and which outlines the types of projects the BID will set out to deliver over the next five years.
“These are projects which will be over and above what the Council is able to provide with its increasingly limited resources. If the BID doesn’t do them, they simply won’t happen.”
He said this was a golden opportunity for city centre businesses and organisations – be they local or national retailers, services providers, professional firms, leisure outlets, hospitality providers or educational establishments – to influence the future of the city centre.
“To my mind, Bradford should have had a BID years ago,” said Mr Ward. “It just makes so much sense, I think it would be very difficult for any business that wants a voice and a future not to vote Yes!”
The Broadway and Kirkgate shopping centres, the University of Bradford, Bradford College, the National Science and Media Museum, the Telegraph & Argus and major employers such as Provident Financial and Santander are among those who have already expressed strong support for the BID and a number of organisations outside the levy area – including Bradford City, Bradford Bulls and Sovereign Health – have all pledged voluntary support if it goes ahead.
Businesses have until 5pm on October 11 to return their postal ballot votes and the result will be declared the following day. For the BID to succeed, a simple majority of those who vote, representing more than half the total rateable value of all the properties, must be in favour.