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The Echo backs the Southend BID
5:30pm Friday 19th October 2012 in News
NEXT week, Southend’s traders will take part in a landmark vote which could change the face of the High Street and seafront for generations to come.
On October 26, ballot papers will be issued for businesses to cast their opinions on whether the town should introduce a business improvement district.
The so-called BID would be one small step for those involved, but potentially one huge leap forward for the town centre. Today, the Echo launches a new campaign encouraging traders to back the BID.
Times have been hard for all businesses in recent years, and Southend has not survived unscathed.
But the BID, if it is voted through, would give traders the opportunity to do something they have never been able to do before - have a direct say over how their taxes are spent.
In exchange for paying an extra 1.5 per cent in business rates into a central cash pot, businesses will be able to take an active role in deciding what needs to be done and when.
It is a move which could raise £500,000 a year, to spend on sprucing up flower beds, introducing tougher controls on persistent troublemakers and even introducing uniformed “street rangers”.
And it is a move which the Echo, which will be contributing its own 1.5 per cent to the BID cash pot if it goes ahead, fully supports. Chris Hatton, deputy editor, said: “The Echo is delighted to back the BID. “Town centres across the country have suffered badly in the recession with shops closing down and little investment.
“While Southend seems to be doing comparatively well, there is still a need to invest for the future. “The BID gives traders the chance to do just that. “The team behind the BID are committed and proud of Southend and want to maximise its potential. It’s a fantastic opportunity which we hope all traders will positively embrace.” Many other towns across the country have already embraced the concept of a BID, and are now reaping the benefits.
The Southend plan has been piloted by the Town Centre Partnership, an action group funded by major traders, which believes it could make the difference between the High Street and seafront enjoying a thriving future - or succumbing to the threat of out-of-town shopping districts.
The BID would encompass every major shopping or entertainment area in the town centre, stretching from the new Tesco site off Short Street in the north to the cultural centre at the end of the pier in the south. It will provide unheralded unity and cohesion between traders, encouraging every one to have their say in how to improve our shopping heartland.
Dawn Jeakings, the chairman of Town Centre Partnership, said: “In what is a difficult economic climate, the Southend business improvement district will be crucial to the future growth and prosperity of the town centre and seafront. “I cannot stress enough how important it is that all the businesses involved take the time to find out more about the Southend Business Improvement District and cast their vote.
“This is an exciting opportunity to have direct input into the future of our town.
“It could mean the difference between success and failure for many businesses.”