BUSINESS and local authority representatives from across Huntingdon are set to meet on Monday (January 16) as plans to create a Business Improvement District in the town move forward.

Officers and members from Huntingdonshire District Council and Huntingdon Town Council will sit down along with business representatives for the first meeting of a BID task group.

The group of between 15 and 17 members, will be responsible for putting together a detailed business plan for the scheme, which will ask business owners within a specified area to pay extra rates for additional service.

Once the plan, which will include projects, cost, delivery guarantees and performance indicators, has been drawn up, business owners will be asked to vote if they want to go ahead with the project.

The majority must approve for the BID to be nodded through. Estimates are that the BID levy imposed on businesses in Huntingdon could generate around £250,000 a year.

Speaking to the town council last week, economic development officer for HDC Sue Bedlow admitted she was initially sceptical of the scheme, but had now been won round by the benefits.

"It does represent the potential for us as local authorities to come together with businesses for the benefit of the town - that is what I'm really excited about. It will bring us closer together with the community.

"I remember as a small business what it was like and how tight the money was. I was very sceptical about how you get small businesses to vote to pay for something that it doesn't have to pay for.

"The BID is a mechanism where by businesses vote to pay for services for things that they would like to see done to make their environment better.

"It is a common myth that BIDs are more business rates. This misunderstanding comes from the fact that it's the authority that collects the business rates that collects the levy for the BID.

"What is provided by that levy is ring-fenced and handed over to the BID organisation. That organisation is made up of predominantly business and local authorities within the determined area.

"It isn't just additional rates. There is a service level agreement. What the BID money provides is not spent on local authority services. It provides services above and beyond the statutory requirements for local authorities."

BIDs have been established in 120 towns including Bedford, Bury St Edmunds, Ipswich, Lincoln, Hitchin and Royston.

Improvements can include extra safety/security, cleansing and environmental measures, improved promotion of the area, events, and greater advocacy on key issues. Proposals are voted on in a ballot by scheme members.