Generating support for a Business Improvement District is seen as vital to the ongoing success of Exeter city centre.The action plan unveiled by the council includes a target of holding a second ballot on the proposal this autumn – more than two years after the idea was narrowly rejected in a previous referendum.
The council is expected to spend around £15,000 on campaigning in favour of a BID covering a designated area of the city centre.
If approved by a majority of affected businesses, the proposal would see all except those with the smallest premises paying a compulsory levy, which could raise around £700,000 a year.
This money would be spent on a range of projects chosen by businesses to attract more visitors, boost the evening economy and deliver a cleaner, greener and safer city centre.
In the context of ongoing public spending cuts, establishing a BID to raise funds from the private sector is identified as a key short term goal in the council's city centre strategy.
The masterplan states: "It is clear that the squeeze on public finances will remain for the period of the strategy and beyond and that without the delivery of a Business Improvement District and the business community fully stepping up to the plate there will be significant difficulties in maintaining the positive momentum achieved in the city centre over the last decade."
According to the document, creating a BID would strengthen the city centre's competitive position, improve marketing and promotional activity and increase visitor numbers, as well as enhancing safety, security and cleansing and maintenance.
It goes on to state: "The strategy is published at the time of the most significant squeeze on the public finances in decades. Neither core strategy objectives or projects will be deliverable without a clear realignment of expenditure on city centre enhancements, promotion and marketing, maintenance and competitive positioning between local authorities and the business community. Progress on delivering a BID will be an essential step in this realignment."