A HEAVILY criticised town centre initiative has received a boost after its first volunteer business signed up.
A levy of 1.75 per cent was imposed on businesses in Bury St Edmunds with a rateable value of £10,000 or more last year in order to fund the Bid4Bury scheme.
The initiative was brought in after a vote by local business owners. It is intended to fund projects to promote the town centre.
But many did not back the move and 19 have been taken to court in the last year for lack of payment.
Now Auntie Pam’s Sweet Shop, in The Traverse, has become the first business to voluntarily sign up to the scheme, despite its business rate being under the £10,000 threshold for compulsory membership.
Sheila Barnard, proprietor, said: “I believe a Business Improvement District is vital to make Bury thrive and I could see the good work that Bid4Bury is doing to encourage people into the town.
“I consider it much better to work with and be part of an organisation that is trying to help businesses than to be outside it.”
Auntie Pam’s will pay the same rate as other members after signing up.
Mark Cordell, chief executive of Bid4Bury, said: “I was absolutely delighted when Sheila came to us asking to join and I hope that she will be first of several smaller businesses in the town to take advantage of the many benefits of membership.
“I made a pledge at Bid4Bury’s AGM that I wanted this to be an organisation that companies in the town would want to be a part of, and hoped that some smaller firms would aspire to share those benefits too.”
Mr Cordell also encouraged businesses who were interested in signing up to Bid4Bury to contact the scheme.
Several local business owners have put forward the idea of setting up a ‘renegade’ group to refuse to pay the levy.
Auntie Pam’s Sweet Shop has been in Bury for six years and has been owned by Ms Barnard for the last three.
Contact Bid4Bury via its website at www.bid4bury.com or by calling 01284 766258.