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Moratorium on BID levies as Govt steps in to defuse business row

Photo by Johnny Bugeja

The Gibraltar Government stepped in on Monday to defuse the row over a business-led initiative that aims to drive improvements in Main Street and its surrounding areas, agreeing to a moratorium on the payment of levies and promising to broker “meaningful dialogue” with all parties involved.

It was reacting amid a groundswell of opposition to the Business Improvement District (BID), an initiative that enjoys the support of business groups including the Gibraltar Federation of Small Businesses and the Chamber of Commerce, as well many individual businesses and the Gibraltar Government.

The scheme aims to pull together businesses within a defined area in joint initiatives aimed at attracting new trade, including between each other, through marketing, events and incentives financed mainly through annual levies.

But for many businesses that fall within a catchment area stretching the length of Main Street and including parts of Line Wall and the old town, the implications of the BID only became clear when they received bills for a levy which they are obliged by law to pay.

The objectors believe the initiative has been badly handled and that many businesses were not aware of it and would otherwise have opposed it.

There are 1,175 businesses in the BID area, all of whom will have to pay annual levies of up to £5,000 depending on their floorspace.

But only 291 businesses participated in the vote. Although 65% supported the initiative, the objectors say the low turnout indicates problems in the way the project was marketed.

On Monday, Chief Minister Fabian Picardo wrote to the objectors to acknowledge their concerns.

“The Government agreed to support the BID project on the basis that it was wanted by the majority of the business community in and around Main Street,” Mr Picardo said.

“The Government will not continue to pursue or impose the BID Scheme against the freely expressed wishes of the business community that it will impact.”

“We will work with all the interested parties to bring them together and reach the best possible conclusion for Gibraltar.”

In the meantime, the Cabinet on Monday agreed to issue a moratorium on all BID levies, meaning that the Government will not enforce the payment of levies and that anyone who has already paid will receive a refund, pending a decision on how to proceed.

In order for the Government to reach a fully informed decision on its position moving forward, the Government will meet with the GFSB, the Chamber of Commerce and a representative of those who object to the BID Scheme.

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