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BUSINESSES TO VOTE ON NEW PRIVATE-SECTOR LEVY TO RAISE FUNDS FOR SAFETY AND STREET IMPROVEMENTS

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Businesses in key London areas will vote this autumn on whether they want a new levy to fund wardens, extra cleanin...
Businesses in key London areas will vote this autumn on whether they want a new levy to fund wardens, extra cleaning and other services to enhance their areas.

A successful vote for formal Business Improvement District (BID) status would see a self-imposed levy on businesses, raising funds for ongoing improvement projects in the area. This is the culmination of five years' work to pilot this mechanism in London, where a number of pilot BIDs have already run a range of major improvement schemes.

-Businesses have contributed about£8m in time and money to London's 13 pilot BIDs.

-The pilot overseeing the area from Piccadilly Circus to Leicester Square has added 370 hours' worth of cleaning a week and removed 328,000 pieces of chewing gum.

-Wardens in the pilot areas have helped make policing more visible. They have given dedicated safety advice to thousands of businesses, spoken to tens of thousands of members of the public and acted as extra eyes and ears for the police and local authorities on a daily basis.

-A cleaning blitz around the Bankside area, removing graffiti, fly-posting and soiling by pigeons, has had a strong impact and highlights the need for an ongoing process.

The autumn schedule for the first votes was announced to a major conference of BIDs practitioners and businesses today. The conference also saw the launch of new information packs on the legal side of BIDs. These will save businesses that want to set up BIDs about£20,000 and halve the time spent working through the legal processes from a year to six months.

Greg Clark, chair of the conference and London Development Agency's director of London promotion and international initiatives, said businesses in the pilot areas hailed the impact of the programmes and there was a groundswell of support for the new dedicated levy.

Mr Clark said: 'These pilot projects have made a real difference to their areas. By drawing in local businesses to work with the public secto r, BIDs offer a truly sustainable approach to urban management and make areas feel far safer and more attractive for retailers, customers, tourists, businesses and staff.

'The next step will be gaining the votes to turn these pilots into full-blown business improvement districts, providing secured funding that will help these areas develop long-term programmes. The end result will be, quite simply, that these areas will become much more desirable and valuable.'

Julie Grail, partnerships director for Central London Partnership (CLP), said the pilot projects have paved the way for other areas to set up BIDs far more readily.

Dr Grail said: 'Nine of the London boroughs now have pilot BIDs in their areas, while a further 17 have shown interest in developing a BID or have already carried out feasibility work. BIDs have transformed centres in the United States, Canada and South Africa and they will make a tremendous difference in London and the rest of the UK.'

Stephen Ashworth, chair of The Circle Initiative and a partner of Denton Wilde Sapte - which drew up the legal templates - said the templates would help other areas overcome a significant hurdle to developing BIDs.

Mr Ashworth said: 'It is crucial that BIDs show how they can deliver added value to businesses in their area, and part of this is establishing a professional and accountable organisation. This is why we have developed the legal templates, which cover issues such as corporate governance and staff contracts. They also set the framework for establishing a constructive working relationship with local authorities over the life of the BID.'

The pilot BIDs are running in Piccadilly Circus, Holborn, the West End, Bankside, Waterloo, Paddington, London Bridge, the Tower of London area, Kingston, Ealing, Hammersmith and Fulham, Bromley and Greenwich.

Notes

1. London BIDs (www.London BIDs.info) is a regional Business Improvement District (BIDs) promotion and development programme run by Central Lo ndon Partnership (CLP) on behalf of the London Development Agency (LDA). The programme is pan-London and is designed to provide a range of support services including an information website for those wishing to establish a BID. CLP has substantial BIDs experience and is the driving force behind The Circle Initiative, the first UK BID pilot programme funded through£4.6 million from the LDA. The five partnerships in the programme are Better Bankside, Circle Waterloo, Holborn Business Partnership, Paddington Circle and Paddington Business Partnership.

2. Central London Partnership (www.c-london.co.uk)

Private sector-led, with an entrepreneurial and creative approach, Central London Partnership brings together a multiplicity of partners - including local authorities, police, businesses and arts organisations - to make central London a better place in which to live, work, invest and visit.

3. London Development Agency (www.lda.gov.uk) is the major funder of the BID Pilots run by the Circle Initiative and of the London BIDs promotional programme run by Central London Partnership. The LDA is the Mayor's agency for business and jobs. It prepares the Mayor's business plan for London and mobilises the support and resources of hundreds of partner organisations to help build a thriving economy for London's people, businesses and communities. The LDA is dedicated to improving sustainability, health and equality of opportunity for Londoners.

4. Business Improvement Districts provide the means for private sector leadership in the improvement of a locality, through the formation of an independent company to enhance and manage a defined area. By working alongside other local stakeholders, the private sector leads on long-term, sustainable management arrangements which are over and above the services traditionally provided by the public sector.

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