BID: Status quo is not an option

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I would like to respond to Bob Robertson’s letter on the Business Improvement District (BID), (Morpeth Herald, September 7).

Most of Bob’s questions have been answered by Ken Brown in the same edition, however, I would like to make one or two additional comments.

Of course Bob, Penrith is not exactly the same as Morpeth, no two towns are, but you missed the point. Penrith is a market town that has had similar problems to Morpeth, and more importantly, it is coming to the end of its fourth year of a BID so its representatives can speak with some experience on what can be achieved with a successful BID and a town working together.

Hexham is only at the start of its journey, even though two Morpeth businesses with branches in Hexham are fully behind the Morpeth BID.

The transformation in Penrith, as I said, has to be seen to be believed, not only in the appearance and vitality of the town, but the community working together.

Penrith has a town manager who works two days a week. The income from the levy is approximately £90,000 per year, plus an extra £40,000 that he has brought in from external sources and sponsors.

There is no reason why Morpeth, with someone who has time, experience and expertise, could not achieve the same or better results.

You are correct Bob, Morpeth does have Fair Day, Music in the Market Place, the Food Festival, Chamber Charity Golf Day, the Heart of Morpeth awards, sourcing and transporting of the Christmas tree, arranging all the hanging baskets and troughs for the businesses in Morpeth, and marshalling all the events.

But this is not done by some magic genie who hides away in Isabel Smail’s old shop with Lord Lucan and Shergar and comes out on the eve of these events, waves his magic wand and they happen.

The majority of these events are organised by the same handful of people who are getting fewer in number and not getting any younger.

You may recall last year that we had to put an article in this paper to say Fair Day may not go ahead due to a lack of volunteers. Thankfully, one or two came forward, but that is not to say that all these events, and this is not an exaggeration, are guaranteed to take place in the future.

But if the BID is successful it will not only help secure the future of these events, but could improve, extend and create even more events for the town, as well as looking at all aspects of increasing footfall and improving Morpeth town centre.

Another fact you seem to have missed is that the steering group is only here to facilitate the BID process, not to run the BID. If the BID is successful the steering group will cease to exist and an elected board will be set up to decide how the money is spent.

You also stated that I asked the ‘no’ campaign for ideas on how the money should be spent. This is incorrect. What I asked was if the no campaign was successful, what positive ideas or schemes members had for helping the businesses in the town.

Unfortunately, they don’t seem to have any ideas, the only response is no to the BID.

The no campaign seems happy with the status quo. Unfortunately, if the BID fails there won’t be the status quo so just saying no to the BID is not an option.

John Beynon