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13 May 2008 : Column 411WH—continued

13 May 2008 : Column 412WH

Mr. Dhanda: Absolutely. I appreciate that, and I thank my hon. Friend for supporting this important change, which has allowed local authorities and BID companies to raise money for good causes in their localities. The purpose of BIDs is to encourage local authorities and businesses to work together for the benefit of their local communities. I can think of examples, although I do not have a BID in my own community. The Peel centre in Gloucester is popular with shoppers, but we have had huge problems with car crime in the area. People have parked their cars, gone to the cinema and been burgled. Perhaps a BID would be the answer for my local council and local companies to raise money for CCTV cameras. Such innovative approaches have borne fruit and been successful across the country.

Improvements to an area via a BID are funded by a levy on non-domestic ratepayers or on a defined class of ratepayers in the area covered. The levy varies by district, as legislation does not prescribe how it should be set or its amount. As my hon. Friend said, in this case it is 1.5 per cent. of the rateable value of a property, plus £200.

There has been widespread interest in and enthusiasm for BIDs and the opportunities that they can offer. As I have said, there are about 71 BIDs, with very successful ones in places such as Kingston, Blackburn and Derby, but there is no template setting out what a BID should or should not include.

The process of implementing a BID, which is the key to the questions that both my hon. Friends asked, is entirely a local initiative. Although the Government have set out the legal framework for the process, we do not take a role in identifying the purpose of initiating a local BID. It is for local businesses and local authorities to work together to determine the requirements of their area and develop a project. However, a number of safeguards are set out in BID legislation to protect ratepayers who are potentially affected and ensure that all ratepayers can have their say.

My hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, North-West, made an interesting point about ballot papers being tucked away on page 3 of a document, and my view is that such things need to be prominent. We need to encourage turnout. We want people to be a part of BIDs and to support them, but that has to happen from a position of knowledge. I take on board my hon. Friend’s concerns about the BID in Coventry, but as I have said, 54 per cent. of businesses that returned the paperwork said that they were in favour of it. I will be happy to discuss that with him elsewhere.

The legislation governing BIDs ensures that before any proposal goes ahead, the businesses concerned must have the opportunity to vote. In identifying who will be liable for the additional levy, and therefore who will be entitled to vote, those developing BID proposals are entitled to ask the local authority to provide the names and addresses of non-domestic ratepayers from its local rating list, and the rateable values of the businesses in the area to be covered by the proposed BIDs.

It is up to businesses themselves to be satisfied that they have arrangements in place to ensure that a BID ballot paper reaches the person who will sign it on behalf of their business—

It being Two o’clock, the motion for the Adjournment of the sitting lapsed, without Question put.

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