An attempt to inject millions of pounds into Grantham’s economy has failed by a hair’s breadth following a vote by local businesses.
The result of the vote on a Business Improvement District (BID) for Grantham had to be rechecked and revalidated on Wednesday because it was so close.
I know how David Cameron must feel over Brexit. The percentage of the vote against in rateable value was 50.001 per cent.Amber Kitching, Go Grantham operations manager
In the ballot, held throughout November, 189 businesses and organisations voted in favour of the BID proposal and 164 against. But the rules of the vote say that the aggregate rateable value of the votes must be taken into account.
The aggregate rateable value of those businesses that voted in favour of the BID was £7,639,050 and the value of those that voted against was £7,639,650 – just £600 more.
A total of 826 ballot papers were issued and 353 votes cast – a turnout of 42.86 per cent.
Go Grantham Ltd was behind the project which, if given the green light, would have seen more than £2 million invested in schemes, projects and promotion over the next five years with businesses contributing a small percentage of their rateable value every year.
Operations manager Amber Kitching told the Journal the failure to establish a BID was “very disappointing”. She added: “It was one of the highest turnouts for any BID in the country and I am particularly positive that so many people turned out to back the BID.
“We are really pleased by what we have done, it’s such a shame that it did not go through.”
Talking about the small margin of rateable values, she added: “£600 is not even the rateable value of a very small shop. I know how David Cameron must feel over Brexit. The percentage of the vote against in rateable value was 50.001 per cent.
“We wanted to give it a chance and we did that. It was a very long process and we have learned a lot. We have met some fantastic businesses and people. I do feel the business community we have created has improved and people are talking to each other a lot more.
“I don’t think this is the end of Go Grantham. It has the potential to do other things and we will start looking at other projects. There is so much going on in Grantham.”
Businessman Stuart Pigram, chairman of the BID project, said there could be a revised BID in the future.
He added: “I am obviously very disappointed but extremely positive we had such a great turnout and that a great number of businesses supported the proposals.
“This does not mean the end of Go Grantham. Whether it is through a revised BID or a different project, I think there is much more that Go Grantham can give to local business and we can develop the positive work that has been done over the past two years.
“It would be a shame if the value of all that work is lost but at this stage it’s too early to say how we will go on from here. We will be making decisions over the forthcoming weeks.
“The closeness of the vote beggars belief. This is not being perceived as a failure because it demonstrates that the BID was supported by a large number of Grantham businesses.
“We respect the outcome of the ballot and we will move on from here. I would like to thank the team at South Kesteven District Council for their diligence with the vote and the ballot.”
Chairman of Grantham Business Club Darren Joint described the outcome of the vote as a “deep shame” and believes that if a number of larger businesses had got behind the BID it would have been a success. He said: “It’s a deep shame we could not get it over the line. In terms of engagement, the team did a great job so it’s a shame some of the larger businesses did not get behind the BID, as they have the larger rateable value, and that has swung it.”
Mr Joint added: “I hope that something positive comes out of this in the long term, whether it is another BID or something else.”
Leader of SKDC and executive member for growth Councillor Bob Adams said: “I am extremely disappointed it was not successful. I thought it would have been very beneficial for Grantham.”
A spokesman for SKDC, which conducted the ballot on the Go Grantham proposal, said this was not a traditional ballot where only a count of the votes cast is required.
He added: “For a BID ballot to be successful there must be a majority of those voting in favour both in terms of numbers voting and also the rateable value represented by those voting.
“As there were close margins in terms of the rateable value element of the result process, the rateable value against the votes in favour and those against the BID proposal were rechecked and revalidated.”
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