SHIRLEY’S failed plan to set up a Business Improvement District (BID) scheme for the Stratford Road area has cost borough taxpayers up to £40,000.
Solihull council had agreed to the payment to help develop the BID, which supporters said would give the shopping area a new lease of life.
Shirley BID would have seen businesses group together for a minimum five years to pay a levy for additional services and activities to improve the area, as with other BID schemes across the region and country.
But the scheme was rejected by businesses in a vote, as we reported last week.
If the BID had been given the green light by businesses in the area, the ‘loan’ would have been repaid in instalments over a five-year period, from some of the money raised by a 1.5 per cent levy on business rates along the Stratford Road.
The funds will not now be returned to the council, because the vote was lost.
The money came from the council’s reserves – money set aside for unexpected spending.
If the BID ballot had been successful, it is claimed it would have generated £550,000 of funds over five years to invest in a programme of visitor events and street markets, employ a warden to react quickly to problem issues such as litter or graffiti, and work with partners to deliver improved visitor WiFi.
The BID would also have campaigned for improvements to existing car park facilities and the introduction of parking meters where required.
Additional priorities in its five-year Business Plan were for investment to improve Christmas lights displays, new promotional campaigns to highlight independent businesses and to work with partner organisations to improve street paving maintenance.
Councillors who backed the BID said they were disappointed that the scheme would not go ahead, even though around seven out of 10 of the businesses which voted had been in favour.
Those who voted “yes” also needed to account for 50 per cent of the rateable value.
Crucially the result fell short on the second measure, which suggests larger businesses chose to vote against establishing the BID.
A Solihull council spokesperson said it was still calculating the precise amount of money spent on the BID from the loan of up to £40,000.
They added: “We will continue to find ways to support the businesses in Shirley and work to enhance the area for everyone.”
There have been rumours of plans the Shirley BID might go back to the drawing board.
In a statement a spokesperson for the BID said: “The Shirley business community is naturally disappointed by the outcome of the BID ballot and members of the BID Shadow Board are considering all options for the future.
“Further consultation would have to be carried out to understand the wishes of Shirley businesses before deciding to pursue a new ballot or any other proposals related to a new Business Improvement District for the area.”