A Strong Voice for Croydon Central - Gavin Barwell MP
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Croydon town centre BID to continue
07/11/2011 21:36:00

Five years ago, the business ratepayers in Croydon town centre voted to establish a Business Improvement District (BID). A BID has the power to levy a supplementary business rate levy and it controls how the additional money raised is spent.

Over the last five years, the BID has invested £7.5million to fund additional street cleaning, extra police officers and events and festivals which have drawn visitors to the town. It also runs the award-winning Croydon Visitor Centre and the Croydon Business Crime Reduction Partnership, which tackles crime and anti-social behaviour in the town centre.

Over the last few weeks, business ratepayers have been balloted about whether the BID should continue for another five years. I am delighted that they have overwhelmingly voted in favour (just over 71% of premises representing nearly 79% of aggregate rateable value voted yes – a significant increase on the support five years ago).

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Readers' Comments

On 10/11/2011 17:38:00 Anthony Miller wrote:
The thing is if they're funding extra police does that give them political control over the police? And if not what are they getting for the £7.5 million? No one gives anyone £7.5 million for nothing. I am worried about giving business power over policing. In some cases (Crimestoppers) business works well with the police but if business is too close to the police …. could that not be unhealthy? Presumably if they are paying this money they will want more political control over the streets that the BID area covers and more policemen per square foot than in areas outside the BID? For example the Heart of London BID are obsessed with people urinating in public and the Croydon BID are obsessed with chewing gum. One could argue that BIDs are fundamentally undemocratic since the voting power of individuals within them is directly proportional to the volume of business rateable floor space they command – in short power is bought as a function of floor space. Also while you spend a lot of time talking about boundary commissions for MPs I feel I must point out the boundaries of BIDs are defined simply by the businesses who originally proposed them so if you are 3 feet outside you cannot join. It is noticeable (though it may be accident of geography) that both Reeves Corner and London Road which were worst hit in the riots are technically outside the Croydon BID area. But my central point is that the process for defining a BID area is a recipe for gerrymandering enabling proposers to pick off for part privatisation the most lucrative areas of high streets. I mean, do these areas if they're paying for more policing actually get more police? If they do is that democratic? And if they don't why is anyone actually paying the extra levy on business rates? How are these extra paid for policemen spread about the borough? And if they’re paid for by the BID doesn’t that make them accountable to business leaders? Which may undermine the long held position of the Met that policemen are just “ordinary members of the public who’s full time job is the enforcement of the law”. If they’re now a sort of cross between policemen and security guard…? Or is that too cynical.

That is not to say there are no benefits in tbe BID model but clearly BIDs are a meaningless concept if they don't give the businesses actual power over policing and indeed promotion of events run in the town centre and the physical appearance of the town centre – and as any promoter will tell you the two are linked. For BIDs to operate residential rate payers must be giving up some power to the business community. This is arguably undemocratic but may be tolerable if it saves ratepayers money. So the fundamental question is what powers does the BID want over the land it encircles? What powers are the ratepayers supposed to give up in return for the £7.5 million investment? I find it hard to believe that all these businesses are choosing to pump an extra £7.5 million into the town centre simply out of a spirit of totally selfless philanthropy – so what do they want for is from US (i.e. ratepayers)?

On 14/11/2011 21:17:00 Gavin wrote:

They pay for extra officers on the town centre team so yes they are getting extra police in their area but no they don't have any operational control.




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