Sunderland businesses still have time to back £3.4million city centre-boosting bid

City Centre Traders' Association chairman, Harry Collinson, pictured filling in his Bid ballot paper at Collinson's Jewllers.

City Centre Traders' Association chairman, Harry Collinson, pictured filling in his Bid ballot paper at Collinson's Jewllers.

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Have your say

TIME is running out to back the Bid.

Hundreds of city centre businesses have until the close of business tomorrow to show their support for plans for a new Business Improvement District (Bid) in the heart of Sunderland.

Ballot papers have gone out to more than 450 businesses across the city centre and have to be returned to Sunderland Civic Centre.

But don’t worry if you’ve left it late to have your say – ballot papers can be delivered by hand to civic centre reception and will be accepted up until 5pm tomorrow.

The Bid move comes as a leading think-tank calls on the Government to do more to help small businesses, the lifeblood of local economies.

Centre for Cities is warning that the North of England will be hit particularly hard by Government cuts.

It highlights Sunderland as an area which is already struggling, with just 20.7 new businesses created for every 10,000 people, compared with 72.5 per 10,000 in London.

Chief executive Alexandra Jones said: “Small and medium-sized businesses are the lifeblood of the UK’s economy, but many have been particularly affected by the impact of the recession on their local economies.

“They will face challenges ahead as further austerity measures have a knock-on effect on local demand for their services.”

The brainchild of Sunderland Business Ltd, the Bid would see businesses with a rateable value of £15,000 or more pay a levy of 1.5 per cent a year over an initial five-year period, a move business leaders say would generate about £3.4million to invest in improvements and events to attract people into the city centre.

The Bid would also provide a platform to attract funds from other organisations such as the Arts Council and Big Lottery Fund.

Sunderland City Centre Traders’ Association is backing the plan, and chairman Harry Collinson, of Collinson Jewellers, is urging all those receiving ballot papers to vote yes.

“The Business Improvement District plan is an amazing opportunity to move Sunderland city centre – and the businesses in it – forward,” he said.

“I hope everyone will grasp the opportunity that the Bid plan offers us.”

Before a Bid can be established, the scheme has to win the backing of businesses which will pay the levy.

It has to attract support not only of 50 per cent of all businesses voting, but also 50 per cent of the total rateable value of those businesses. Full details of how the Bid will operate, the area covered and what is planned can be viewed at www.Bidsunderland.co.uk.