Traders could back levy despite footfall drop

Hull butcher Ted Johnston outside his Carr Lane premises
Hull butcher Ted Johnston outside his Carr Lane premises
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BALLOT papers are going out to over 1,000 Hull city centre businesses to decide on a third term for a controversial business improvement district.

Businesses pay one per cent of their rateable value for services - a total levy of £480,000-a-year - for services including removing graffiti and staging events.

Footfall dropped five per cent in the latter end of last year and businesses have been complaining bitterly about the impact on trade of the simultaneous digging up of streets ahead of City of Culture year.

Carr Lane butcher Ted Johnston campaigned against last time, but will not this time, citing the difficulties of fighting a body “with everything on its side” and “apathy” in other businesses.

Mr Johnston claimed the only thing which benefitted his business for his £300-a-year levy was the Yum food festival put on by the Bid. He said: “The brief was to improve business and the Bid has failed on every count. Business is the worst it has ever been - it is absolutely dreadful.”

Opponents lost by just 40 votes last time and Mr Johnston said one of the main difficulties in winning a “no” vote was the presence of block voters like Hull Council, which accounts for over 60 votes.

However Hull Bid manager Kathryn Shillito said they represented a “voice for business” and their two support officers helped keep the centre secure. She said there had been a “measurable reduction in crime” in the city centre and they had helped by successfully lobbying for more officers.

She said: “Footfall is down but it is not due to Hull Bid - the national picture is very similar to the one we are experiencing. I feel confident, but not over confident. We know certain businesses are struggling but we know others are having a success.

“We are reliant on them understanding what Hull Bid does. I’ve met hundreds of businesses and explained what we do. My concern is if the Bid were not to continue they wouldn’t have a voice.” Papers go out from next Thursday. The result will be announced on Friday March 18.