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Waterloo businesses to vote on business rate levy

Businesses in the Waterloo area are to vote next February on the setting up of a Business Improvement District (BID) funded by a levy on business rates.

The area around Lower Marsh, The Cut, Waterloo Road and Westminster Bridge Road is to go for Business Improvement District status in February 2006. Pilot BID Waterloo Quarter Business Alliance (WQBA) has been working towards this for some time, and support from local business has been steadily growing. The WQBA board, made up of local businesses, has now taken the formal decision to go for a Business Improvement District (BID) ballot in February next year. If the vote is successful, all of the businesses will contribute to the BID through a small levy, typically 2 per cent of the rateable value of their business property.

WQBA and local businesses have supported projects in the area including the transformation of Emma Cons Gardens opposite the Old Vic that began with the lights in the trees and re-landscaping. WQBA will also be funding the hanging basket displays through the autumn and winter. The next big thing, in partnership with Lambeth Council, will be a new and much extended Christmas light display through the centre of Waterloo at the beginning of December. WQBA also act as a voice for businesses in the area, to ensure that views are heard by organisations like Lambeth Council, who are keen to improve on existing relationships.

WQBA says that the BID is an exciting opportunity for businesses to have a real say in how their money is spent and how the area can be improved. Unlike existing business rates, all of the funding raised by the BID will be spent in the BID area only, which means – BID bosses claim – that pound for pound, businesses' money will go further.

It remains a strong aspiration of WQBA that the BID area should cross the boundary between the local authorities of Lambeth and Southwark. This would be the first cross borough BID in the country. The decision has been taken to go forward with a Lambeth-only BID, at this stage, due to the lack of clarity about the legal framework. Southwark businesses will be offered voluntary membership of the BID for those who wish to be a part of this project. It is hoped that if the ballot is successful in February, it will be possible to go for a formal ballot to include Southwark businesses soon after.

Businesses in the London Bridge area are currently voting on a similar scheme.

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