Altrincham Forward has defended the planned introduction of a levy for businesses included in the Business Improvement District (BID) area.
Last month the town was awarded £40,000 by the government to set up a BID, a business-led body formed with the specific intention of improving the appeal of the town as a trading environment.
That could include everything from the reduction of empty shops to more events and better marketing of the town.
An 18-month consultation period has begun for businesses and if a final proposal is voted through in November 2015, all businesses within the BID area will have to pay a 1-2% levy on their rateable value from around April 2016.
That would mean an extra £260 a year for the average independent business, up to around £1,500 for large chains.
The money would be used to create a fund to implement the agreed improvements.
All affected businesses have been sent a letter by Altrincham Forward, signed by Trafford Council leader Sean Anstee, which highlights the success of BIDs in other parts of the country – there are around 185 nationwide.
Some businesses have criticised the proposed levy, calling it a “stealth” rise in business rates at a time when rents and rates in the town are already high.
But in an exclusive conversation with Altrincham Today, Hazel Kimmitt, the BID team leader for Altrincham Forward, has sought to justify the levy, saying businesses had to see it as an investment in the town’s future.
She said: “Business rates are collected by the council locally, but then handed to the national government, and then the local government get back less than they collect.
“A BID levy would be collected in Altrincham, would stay in Altrincham and be spent on the things that the businesses want to happen, so they have complete control over what that levy is – it’s typically between 1 and 1.5%. They will have control over how much it is, who’s covered by it and who isn’t, and the area in which it is collected.
“It’s spent by a company set up for the purpose, it’s independent and run by the businesses. You’ve got to see it as investment – it’s more of business investment district than a business improvement district, and it’s that control that should appeal to the businesses here.”
Watch the full interview below:
More information about the BID and what it means for Altrincham businesses can be found here.