INDEPENDENT businesses in Gainsborough have spoken of the difficulty and hardship that is facing them in the current climate.
Local shopkeepers and entrepreneurs have blamed a number of factors – including ever-increasing costs, a decline in town centre footfall and a lack of support from the council.
It has got so bad for Claire Kendall who owns Whatever on Lord Street, that she will soon be closing down.
“I’ve been thinking of closing down the business for a while,” she said. “It just wasn’t doing enough, and my husband was propping the business up, but since the beginning of this year it’s been much worse.”
“Then he lost his job and got a new one in Holland so we’re moving there. After a series of things, it’s the right thing to do.”
Claire continued: “You’ve seen what the local high street has become - it’s not even as good as it was just one year ago and if we have another winter like last year then it isn’t worth carrying on.”
Claire blamed a lack of funding, support and awareness for worsening the impact of the recession on local independent businesses.
“The Government can’t afford to do anything to help small businesses and I would never have got a bank loan,” she said. “Basically, by the time we’ve all paid our bills, council tax, business rates and utilities, there’s nothing left over.”
“Gainsborough hasn’t attracted many customers for years and nothing has been put back into the town and that has got to change.”
Claire is just one of many local business people who supports the Gainsborough Business Improvement District (BID) campaign – aimed at giving all businesses and organisations in the area a local voice, with a five-year programme agreed, monitored and managed by a board of representatives to address the issues of individual sectors while offering a fair system for all.
“The BID thing is great way to help change the face of the town through businesses regulating the money themselves,” said Claire. “Marshall’s Yard has really helped to put Gainsborough back on the map, but now we all need to sit down and talk about how to attract people back into Gainsborough.”
Dawn Barren, manager of Barren Bou on Lord Street, agreed that more needs to be done.
“A lot is done to promote Marshall’s because a lot is paid for it, but we’re all paying our rates and getting nothing back she said. “I’m not necessarily 100 oper cent behind BID because what they’re offering, we should be getting by paying our rates anyway.”
She added: “Here at Barren Bou we offer a good laugh, good service and you get cheered up coming here – local businesses need support.”
But now, the BID Task Group are finalising details for a formal ballot to be held early in September at which all 465 non-domestic premises ratepayers across the town centre area will be able to vote for a Gainsborough BID to become a reality under the current legislation.
“Across the UK there are now 118 BIDs generating economic growth, helping attract investment and giving areas added focus,” said BID co-ordinator David Hawkins. “Our plan offers an opportunity to fund and deliver important projects for the benefit of local businesses – projects which are unlikely to be supported without it, especially as traditional government funding routes become more limited.”
A spokesman for West Lindsey District Council said that while business rates are collected by the authority, the money currently goes back to the treasury.
“The Government is trying to help businesses nationally by extending the rate relief available so that those with a rateable value below £6,000 will not pay anything until the end of September next year,” he said. “In Gainsborough, the district council supports the Town Centre Partnership and the efforts to establish a Business Improvement District. If plans for a BID are successful they will mean that money raised locally can be spent locally – this could result in £700,000 being spent on the town centre in the next five years.”
For more information on the BID campaign visit www.gainsboroughbid.co.uk