City councillors are set to decide whether to support the Winchester Business Improvement District for a fresh term.

The BID, which is coming to the end of its third consecutive five-year stint, will be discussed at today's cabinet meeting.

If approved by civic chiefs, a ballot will be held in November in which businesses can decide whether to vote the organisation in for a fourth tenure.

Formed in 2008, the BID, which is in its 15th year, collects an annual levy from 711 city businesses which is calculated at 1.5 per cent of the rateable value of their premises.

In return, owners benefit from a range of schemes spearheaded by the BID around Winchester.

Since its creation, it has enabled over £7 million to be invested in projects and services to improve the city as a 'business location', plus over £750,000 more in grants, sponsorship and project generated income.

Bosses also have a hand in involving businesses in events such as Winchester Fashion Week and several festivals, as well as providing the BID Rangers, who have helped to recover over £50,060 worth of goods from offenders stealing from local stores. In November 2017, 77.3 per cent of the businesses which voted were in favour of the BID.

Executive director Paul Spencer presented the BID's proposed strategy for the new term to councillors at Winchester Town Forum last Thursday. He was quizzed about potentially extending the BID's current boundaries and what the body would be doing to help city centre shops in the midst of a cost of living crisis.

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Mr Spencer said: "We are looking to diversify our services to meet the needs of local businesses. Our initiatives will focus on securing a stronger future for Winchester and working towards a batter promoted city, a safe and secure city, a clean, attractive and sustainable city and a thriving business community. I hope the Town Forum would be supportive of a bid in Winchester and recognise the role it can play in helping to bring a vibrant and resilient city centre. Should we be successful at the ballot later this year we look forward to working with you on topics of shared interest."

In response to the presentation, Councillor Kelsie Learney said: "As one of the councillors who was around in the pre-BID times and remembers some of the activity the council used to carry on in this arena beforehand, I have to say the development of the BID has been hugely positive for the town. The level of activity is so much greater to promote and enhance the city centre than previous council and city centre partnership work, and really importantly it has also been much more business led rather than the council telling businesses what was right for them. Certainly I've found the BID works really well with the council. They are not in our pocket - they are quite happy to tell us when we're not doing things the way they would like to see them done. I think it is a hugely positive thing for the city."

Councillor John Tippett-Cooper added: "The work the BID does is self evident and very good - I do hope you're successful in the election."

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