A business services group in Fitzrovia has done a hasty about-turn on holding a ballot to create a business improvement district (BID) in Fitzrovia West, mere weeks after being given the go-ahead by Westminster Council.
On 3 May The Fitzrovia Partnership gained formal permission to hold a ballot of the largest businesses in Fitzrovia West to raise £4.2mn over five years from a levy on the business rates.
It published its “West Fitzrovia” business plan on its website and said ballot papers were due to be sent out on Tuesday 13 June, and to be returned by 5pm on Tuesday 11 July. Fitzrovia News reported this on Saturday 3 June.
However, it then came to light that The Fitzrovia Partnership had actually abandoned its plans.
“The City Council was given formal notice by the Partnership on 24 May 2023 to postpone the ballot to later this year,” said a spokesperson for Westminster Council, who said they were unable to comment on the reason for the postponement of the ballot.
Fitzrovia News understands that all the eligible businesses who would pay the BID levy were also informed of the decision to halt the ballot.
However, no public statement was made about this and its website was still promoting the June BID ballot. Residents we spoke to had not heard anything about the change of plan, either.
Fitzrovia News contacted The Fitzrovia Partnership on Monday asking for an explanation for abandoning the June ballot but we did not receive a response until today, despite numerous calls pressing them for a response.
“We have postponed the ballot until the autumn,” said Mike Fairmaner, who is leading on the West Fitzrovia BID plans.
“We have taken the view that we want to spend some more time engaging with businesses to ensure we get a good turnout at the ballot.
“I stress that during the past 18 months we have experienced a very positive response to our ambition for establishing a business improvement district in West Fitzrovia but we want to ensure a broad and full business engagement is undertaken within a changing business constituency prior to the start of the statutory ballot process.
“Hence we have decided to postpone the ballot of businesses until October 2023 with a view to the BID formally starting on 1 January 2024. This will mean a bigger mandate to deliver on all the priorities we have set out in the business plan that will remain unchanged,” he said.
The Fitzrovia Partnership has been engaging with businesses in Fitzrovia West about a possible BID since 2017, according to documents seen by Fitzrovia News. They have run a BID in Fitzrovia East since 2012.
As of this evening (Thursday 8 June) there has been no other public statement on the postponement of the ballot on their website or social media channels.
Update, 19 June 2023: The West Fitzrovia website now states “suggested dates” for the distribution of the ballot papers as Monday 2 October, the close of ballot as Tuesday 31 October, with the results to be published on Wednesday 1 November 2023.