Why we should be backing Streatham’s BID
Streatham Conservatives Chairman Ben Everitt explains why he supports the proposals for a Business Improvement District
The High Road has been in the news again recently. This time with a walk-about by Stephen Hester, the Chief Executive of the Royal bank of Scotland. We punch above our weight here in Streatham. Jo Brand will undoubtedly understand that now. But have we got what it takes to be genuine contenders?
I say we have. We’ve got a thriving and spirited local population who are proud of their area and want to see it continue to improve. We’re blessed with smart and active local groups such Streatham Business Board and the wonderful Music4Children team based at the White Lion, who have just played the world’s highest gig on Mt Everest. And we’ve got our excellent Town Centre Manager, who leads the way in sticking up for Streatham in her feisty no-nonsense style.
So what’s holding us back? Obviously years of underinvestment and neglect by the Labour Council have taken their toll, but local businesses and the community are starting to break free. No one seriously expects the Council to actually put its money where its mouth is on localism – the two seem to operate independently. But investment is happening anyway. Conservative Mayor Boris Johnson’s Outer London Fund provided £375,000 for Streatham High Road last year with much more on the way this year.
Boris’ money is only a start, of course. What would really help is if we could unchain our High Road’s huge potential from the bureaucracy of the council altogether. That’s why I support the local proposals to form a Business Improvement District. The BID will be a local pot of money, controlled by local people that local businesses can spend on improving the High Road as they see fit. It’s democratic – for it to be formed businesses have to vote for it. The pot of money is funded by a levy on business rates, so there’s no extra cost to the already hard pressed Council Tax-payers of Lambeth, who already pay nearly twice as much as next door Wandsworth.
It’s time to start backing Streatham. We have the people, we have the energy and we have the will to control our own destiny. The independence of a BID would allow local businesses to make decisions that directly affect our area - supporting the local economy, improving the look and feel of the High Road. If we want local businesses to continue to thrive, unfettered by bureaucracy from Brixton, then it’s time to back the BID.