Businesses must see big picture

John Elkington, chairman of Sleaford Business Improvement District, soon to be no more. Photo: 0436SB-4
John Elkington, chairman of Sleaford Business Improvement District, soon to be no more. Photo: 0436SB-4

AFTER five years of working to boost the town’s economy, Sleaford Business Improvement District bows out at the end of the month.

The town’s business rate payers voted against renewing the BID and its half a million pound budget for a further five years.

Chairman of the BID, John Elkington, told the Standard: “Unlike the Olympic team, Sleaford has a collection of individuals who only tend to look after their own businesses, but never look towards the bigger picture.”

He thought the economic climate has made people look inwardly at their own costs. He urged businesspeople to pull together and ditch the lethargy. “In a town that so desperately needs revitalizing to attract investment, I find it quite astonishing that only half the (business) people bothered to vote.”

The BID’s BID manager Emma Batty and two security guards have all had to find other jobs and Mr Elkington thanked them all, as well as the eight business directors on the BID board who worked entirely voluntarily.

But he still did not see the project’s demise as a failure, instead more as a missed opportunity: “Time and time again the biggest question has been’ what is BID doing for my business,’ but indirectly it has been a great deal and that was what people failed to grasp.”

He said over 200 of the 640 BID levy payers only needed to contribute 88p a week towards the security patrols. The BID also funded Pubwatch and Shopwatch, transport initiatives and promotion. But like so many things in life, he said people are not going to miss it until the gaps appear. He also said there was likely to be a 10 per cent shortfall in funding to keep the town’s CCTV going without the BID’s planned contribution.

BID-funded CCTV covering Woodbridge Road and East Road industrial estates is to be privatised. The cycle lockers are being passed to NKDC, but there will be no more assistance with the Christmas market, retailer offers and seasonal decorations.

Mr Elkington said the BID provided two-way communication between businesses and local authorities. He viewed Sleaford BID as unique in looking after town centre and industrial estates, suggesting it may have faired better by concentrating on one sector.