Town upkeep scheme could be decided by October vote

A decision on whether businesses will be called on to pay an average �225 a year extra for the town centre’s upkeep could be made as early as October.

Lucy Ball has been charged by the Town Management Partnership with investigating whether a business improvement district (BID) would work in Exmouth.

And, at an extraordinary meeting scheduled for October 3, starting at 7pm, councillors, traders, and the public get the chance to debate Ms Ball’s preliminary findings and decide whether to proceed with the BID.

A BID is an area within which businesses pay a percentage of their rateable value to fund anything from street cleaners, Christmas lights and police to street furniture, CCTV cameras and dog bins.

The Whitehall initiative is designed to plug the gaps in local government finances.

There are approximately 560 businesses in the town centre and on the seafront including the Strand, The Parade, Rolle Street, Albion Hill and Exeter Road, with a combined rateable value of �8.8m.

Government guidelines say that once traders voted for a BID, a charge between 0.5 per cent and five per cent can be annually levied.

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So, if an average town centre business pays non-domestic rates of �15,000 a year they would pay between �75 and �750.

However, the most likely rate, taken from existing BIDs, is about 1.5 per cent – a charge to businesses of �225 a year – which would raise �132,000 each year, or �660,000 over a BID’s five-year life.

She said: “Once the feasibility study is completed in September, and if I determine that a BID would work in Exmouth, businesses would then be able to vote for it.

“A BID would only begin if both a majority of businesses representing the majority of the rateable value voted yes.”

Town clerk John Wokersien said: “The feasibility study will decide whether to pursue this to its ultimate conclusion.

“A lot of work will be done so businesses will understand… nobody will be asked to vote without knowing fully what they are voting for.”