Andover’s Business Improvement District (BID) are holding a meeting to explain how the £200,000 they will raise each year from an enforceable business rates levy will be spent.
It is understood that all business who succumbed to the controversial vote outcome have been invited to the meeting on Tuesday next week.
51.1% of ‘businesses’ in Andover were in favour of the scheme, however the vote was swung by Test Valley Borough Council’s ownership of car parks in town; this enabled them to vote in favour of adopting the BID.
Following our recent announcement that we have used a Freedom of Information FOI) request to ascertain how many businesses in Andover did not pay their BID levy by the May 1st deadline, we are asking residents of Andover to send us their questions, which we will pass on to the BID management team on Tuesday.
The one-hour presentation will explain their plans to install free Wi-Fi in the town centre and give an explanation of ‘visitor journey and heatmap reporting’ which features prominently in their plans.
It is understood this system will push promotional offers from businesses to consumers’ mobile phones, assuming they are connected to the Wi-Fi system. The software will also gather customer, footfall and offer redemption data.
Andover BID whose marketing statement is ‘Working for you’ has consistently come under fire for lack of information sharing, so the meeting on Tuesday may come as some light relief for many businesses seeking clarification.
Many businesses have been upset by the way that their rates payments have increased by 1.5% per year. Some local councillors have supported the anger felt by small businesses owners.
On a full withdrawal of town council support for the BID, Cllr David Coole said, “I ask… Councillors in the audience to tell their Leaders that local people are angry that they think the solution is to stick yet another tax on our struggling high street businesses. Tell them that we want them to work with us and find a way of scrapping of the Andover BID and delivering something even better.
“We have got to stop destroying our town and punishing our businesses. We need to start thinking and acting differently, in the interests of local people and businesses.”
Of the withdrawal of support, BID manager Steve Godwin said directors were “extremely disappointed” at the decision.
Directors of the BID company (Andover Town Centre BID Limited) are: Beverly Botha (Travelling Cupcake), Steve Cotney (Chantry Centre), Lindy Darmanin (Lindy’s), Kevin Paterson (Valley Leisure), Chris Podszus (Simplyhealth) and Sarah Robinson (Oaktree Accountants)
Following the appointment of Mr Steve Godwin as manager, the work of the company has included infuriating some business owners by arranging ‘free rent’ to new businesses and the promotion of events and businesses outside the defined BID levy area. They say their objectives are to ‘Improve perception’ and ‘raise the profile’ of Andover.
Their website claims that they are the organisers of the popular Andover Festival of Motoring, although this reference appears to be for last year’s event, before the BID was created. The website also claims they will establish a Pubwatch scheme (which already exists) and a Shopwatch scheme (which already exists).
As residents of Andover, who should be seen as beneficiaries of the BID scheme, we are inviting you to send your questions to us, which will be posed and passed onto the BID management team at Tuesday’s meeting. You can do so by emailing Love Andover here.
Love Andover has also requested from TVBC (the facilitators of the levy demands and collection agents for the Andover BID) to tell us how many businesses they are threatening court action for non-payment of the levy.
Levy demands were send out in April, demanding the full annual levy within three weeks.
We asked people of Andover if they felt this was a fair way to collect payments. 93% said “no”.
However, we hope that by the end of the meeting on Tuesday and after a Q&A session we may have a much clearer idea of how the £200,000 a year raised will benefit the businesses and people of the town.