THE crucial ballot to decide the future of Bradford’s proposed £2.5 million business improvement district (BID) 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.
The group of business leaders who have spent more than 18 months planning and preparing for the ballot are now urging voters to return their ballot papers – which should arrive today – early.
Ian Ward, chairman of the Bradford BID development board, 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!”
He said a lot of people had 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,” he said.
“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.”
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.
Mr Ward 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.”
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.
David Baldwin, chairman of the Bradford Economic Partnership (BEP), said: “Let’s back the BID and see where it takes us.”
The former director of operations at Bradford City AFC, and now chief executive of Burnley football club, said the BID could “only be a good thing” for the city.
“Anyone who’s unsure about whether or not to vote ‘Yes’ in the coming ballot should think of the BID as working as a collective with a clear vision for bringing about improvement,” said Mr Baldwin.
He said the BID would bring “a more collaborative working relationship with all the stakeholders as well as delivering the physical improvements of co-ordinated event-based attractions, cleaner streets and a better night-time economy.”
“Place Marketing” is a key strand of the “Made In Bradford” strategy being developed by the BEP, which brings together senior leaders from business and other key organisations to oversee and drive the delivery of the district’s growth agenda.
“The BID can help deliver this by ensuring all the stakeholders buy into a ‘one voice for Bradford’ mentality, so that we are all then working together to reinforce the positives of Bradford,” said Mr Baldwin.