Huntingdon businesses could vote to pay extra rates

BUSINESSES in Huntingdon town centre may soon be asked to vote to pay extra rates for additional services.

The Huntingdon Town Partnership commissioned a survey to identify what improvements town centre businesses would value most.

The survey, which closed last week, is part of a feasibility study into implementing a ‘business improvement district’ (BID) in Huntingdon, which would mean collecting additional business rates within a defined area with the extra money ring-fenced to local services.

If the BID is to go ahead, more than half of participating businesses must agree to it – and they must represent at least 50 per cent of the total rateable value of the participating premises.

In the part of Huntingdon concerned there are 369 organisations in 29 streets, covering 13 business sectors and with business rates totalling �13.2million, according to a paper presented by Huntingdon town clerk Karen Cameron to the town council’s finance committee.

But it will be nine to 12 months before it goes to a vote even if the town partnership decides later this month that there is any local appetite for it.

In that time, decisions will have to be taken on who pays how much into the pot, what organisations (such as charities would be excluded), what non-statutory services would be funded, and a host of other details, town centre manager Katy Sismore told The Hunts Post. If proceeded with, the BID would be administered by a limited company established for the purpose.

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Such schemes already operate in 120 towns including Bedford, Bury St Edmunds, Ipswich, Lincoln, Hitchin and Royston.

In Bedford, for example, where a second five-year term was agreed by traders last year, the BID helps fund town centre improvements, events, marketing and promotion to encourage shoppers into the town.