WHY NO FESTIVE CHRISTMAS LIGHTS in Taunton
The reports of Graham Love (Taunton Town Centre Manager) suggesting local traders 'ditched' the renewing of the BID scheme, and therefore losing the funds for Christmas lights are misleading.
The Bid renewal process was not determined by the majority of the 'Yes' or 'No' votes. It allowed a handful of big businesses with higher rateable values to have more sway in the voting process. A handful of big businesses failed to support the scheme (due to the huge levy calculated as a percentage of their higher rateable values), making it an impossible task for the many more local and smaller businesses to accumulate enough 'Yes' votes.
Each vote was converted into 'points' equal to the voters business rateable values. Determining the outcome of all the votes, was then a matter of adding up the combined rateable values of the 'Yes' and 'No' votes. The fewer 'No' votes had a far higher combined rateable value than the many more 'Yes' votes.
The voting highlighted that the majority of traders were in favour of the BID. It is wrong to suggest local traders 'ditched' the BID. The BID was lost because a handful of large national multiple businesses failed to support it . The question to ask and then resolve is: Why did some (especially the larger) businesses abandon BID?
Taunton is no alone, the Exeter BID also failed. Their failure would have enabled a positive Taunton BID to achieve a huge competitive advantage.
Whilst the BID can no longer festively support the Taunton community, (and why should it? Festive lights were always the responsibility of TDBC), it is of far greater concern that our Council seek to follow suit. Is it just about the money?
I shouldn't have to remind the Council that town centre retailers provide a huge collective sum of rates revenues (calculated around 40% of their rents) and receive virtually nothing in return. We even have to pay extra for our bins to be collected. We also employ thousands of staff, collect £millions in VAT and pay £millions in taxes (if we remain profitable).
In return, we are unsupported at a time of year when Taunton could put on a show for its community. In competitive response to other towns nearby, do we really want Taunton to be dull in response to the certainty that Cribbs Causeway will be bright, festive and parking free?
What on earth are the decision makers thinking that really would make Taunton The first choice destination'? The questions have been asked forever, one would think the answers would have been understood by now. Maybe Councillors just don't get it. Maybe the retailers and entrepreneurs have the answers. Trouble is nobody listens to us (or if they do, they don't see the vision, they ignore us or blame a lack of funding).
Let us not say these are uncertain times. One thing that is certain, Orchard Shopping Centre will be vibrant, buoyant and festive the Christmas, even if the town centre is bland, dull and rain swept. It will also have the best tree.
The Taunton community will see (judge and vote) whether any proposed initiatives really do make Taunton a 'First choice destination' or whether those initiatives are simply a low budget offer on a cheap tasteless promotion. I say, if you are going to make an offer, make it a good one.
Taunton Town Centre Company or Deane Councillors say lets give the public free parking for three hours on three Saturdays. I say, lets make everyday in December free parking. They say, No festive lighting. I say lets at least have the same ones as last year. They say lets put a tree in the centre of town. I say Great, but lets have a decent tree not a threadbare one. They say, lets have a street fair for one day. I say let it last the month. They say, lets have five minutes of fireworks. I say, lets have choirs, minstrels, buskers, pipers, dancers, stilt walkers, human statues, nativities, artists, actors, chestnut sellers, rein-deers, hand bell ringers, tableaux, jugglers, town criers, street music, preachers, readings. The list is endless. And not just for one day, but for the whole of December. And competitions, tree decorating, carol writing, shop window displays, house illuminations.
And can you imagine every sales assistant in Taunton being dressed in Dickensian costume? Now that would be really festive.
Councillors say, let us punish you if your car parking ticket expires. I say, let me pay for my customers car parking. And if I am prepared to pay my customers for all day parking, then maybe all the retailers in the Orchard Shopping Centre will follow suit.
Councillors say there is a recession and they must tighten their belts. I say recession is self inflicted and tightening our belts is unproductive. Let us free ourselves of silly restraints, loosen our belts, roll up our sleeves and make our businesses the very best we can.
Another thing that is certain, individually we can make a difference and collectively Taunton would be fantastic.