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Friday, June 29, 2018

Traders show interest in business boosting scheme

Town traders have given their backing to Llangollen expressing an interest in a scheme aimed at boosting local businesses.

Denbighshire County Council has offered to support Llangollen in taking advantage of a Welsh Government programme to explore whether a Business Improvement District (BID) in the area might be viable.
The government is making available up to £30,000 each to nine towns to back a BID project but to go ahead with a scheme an area first needs to match the cash to the tune of 25%. In Llangollen’s case this would be around £7,500.

Other towns including Aberystwyth and Shrewsbury are said to have used this approach very successfully.
Carolyn Brindle from the county’s Economic & Business Development team was at the Town Hall yesterday (Thursday) evening to brief a small number of traders on how a BID could operate in Llangollen.

She explained about the process and answered questions with a view to deciding whether Llangollen wants to work with the council to submit an expression of interest to the Welsh Government by July 20.
With the aid of consultants a business plan would then be developed and involvement in a scheme  balloted on by potential BID members.

If a majority of Llangollen businesses did decide to go ahead Denbighshire would increase business rates by an amount agreed through discussion with all businesses.
The funds collected by DCC through the increased rate would then be repaid to Llangollen into an account controlled by a BID board which would be elected annually.

Members and the board would identify projects that the BID would use the money for.

The county council has said it recognises that while the programme would offer a long-term way of raising money which Llangollen members would control for improvements to the business environment, any increase in rates would be a “significant issue”.

At the meeting Carolyn Brindle was introduced by town councillor Robyn Lovelock who is involved with the 20-20 project which is currently seeking to make improvements to Llangollen’s traffic situation.
She said she had become interested in the BID concept as one possible way of attracting funding for 20-20.

Ms Brindle told around 10 local traders plus representatives of other local organisations that a BID programme could be used to achieve just one thing or many things in a particular town.
In Shrewsbury, for instance, a BID had been used to negotiate a better way of removing trade waste by giving businesses extra bargaining power.

She answered a series of questions from traders about the operation of a BID scheme.
These included the size of the levy necessary to finance it, to which she answered that in Shrewsbury it had been 1.5% of rateable business value. She added that there could be some exemptions to paying the levy below a level of rateable value to be decided by members.

Asked about the geographic size of the BID area, she said this would be up to members to determine.    
On a question about how long a BID programme could last, Ms Brindle said this would be five years at the end of which it would be dissolved with another ballot being held on whether it should be renewed.

Cllr Lovelock said that if local businesses did agree to go ahead it would be a way of demonstrating what the town was prepared to do for itself.
Strong support for the concept came from Matt Jones, owner of Tyn Dwr Hall and a number of other businesses in the town, who described Llangollen’s involvement as a “no brainer”.  

Representatives of other businesses were more sceptical, expressing concerns about whether they could afford the levy on top of their already substantial business rates.
However, in a show of hands amongst the business representatives only, the majority backed Llangollen going ahead with an expression of interest in the scheme.

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