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CEO Blog – February 2021

We are still very much dealing with the ongoing daily impacts of the pandemic personally and professionally.

However, we are given a certain sense of hope and feeling of positivity that we are turning a corner with the arrival of the vaccine and the distribution of the vaccine with a first dose delivered to over 16 million people. 

Of course, that positivity does not distract from the simple loss people are experiencing on so many different levels. 

As efforts continue to contain the pandemic and bring it under control, efforts must be made to develop a recovery plan designed to get our local, regional and national economy back on track. 

Croydon BID has led from the front across the past twelve months as our national Raise The Bar campaign supported businesses with a rateable value of £51k+, changing local policy and then national policy to ensure businesses with a larger rateable value had access to funds. 

Our Bounce Back better backs a number of industry calls for a business rates holiday for 2021-2022, greater financial support, hospitality VAT reduction to be extended for hospitality businesses and the need for employer NI contributions to be frozen for those employees on furlough. 

Nationally, our position is to secure the business rates holiday for 2021-22 and to ensure greater financial grants are offered to businesses as part of the Chancellor of the Exchequers budget announcement in March 2021. 

Over the past few weeks, we have been considering what the road to recovery looks like locally in Croydon so that we can start to create a direction designed to deliver for you, our businesses.

  • Business rate reform – It is widely accepted that the current business rates system is out of date and in desperate need of reform so that it better reflects our business community. Along with our partners, we will look to lobby for this reform to take place, acknowledging the need to rebalance bricks and mortar against digital led businesses, offering greater support to our high streets 
  • Transport – Working with key stakeholders, it is my hope that as we start to look forward, providers such offer flexible payment schemes for those transitioning from home working back into the office. We have to be realistic that most will initially only consider 2-3 days per week in the office and therefore transport operators need to offer a wider offer of tickets available to the former season ticket holders we were used to pre-pandemic. 
  • Inward Investment – Croydon must prepare to compete. It must be ready to position itself as a leading destination for retail, hospitality, leisure and commercial, emphasising the benefits of our location, our transport links and our potential future growth and renewal. Working with key partners, it is my intention to build a credible partnership designed to target future occupants to the town centre, promoting Croydon’s narrative as a place for business. 
  • Meanwhile use development - Our individual hopes and dreams for Croydon won’t materialise overnight and therefore we need to work with partners on how we can improve our current offer by attracting inventive meanwhile use schemes to the town centre. 
  • Certainty – The impact of the pandemic will be felt for some time. Businesses whether they are current occupiers or businesses looking for a new destination need certainty to support their confidence in a place. Certainty is key when you consider some of the challenges faced locally with our town centre. We will focus our efforts on bringing forward greater certainty and clarity so that we, as a collective can support the growth of our business community and offer across the board. Without it, we will struggle to compete. 

There are of course a great many more areas to focus on but for now they are my top five. 

What is clear is that at any time across the past 15 years, right now, knowing what we know and the future challenges we all face, the need for a BID in the town centre is essential. This is an objective view I promise. Without the BID company, the town centre will lose £6m investment overnight, losing a wealth of services and initiatives designed to deliver value to the business community. 

What is important to note here is that the BID company is yours. As members, you have the opportunity to guide its future and set its direction and strategy for the next five, crucial years ahead. 

I am asking you personally to help us to set that direction by completing our formal consultation which will determine how we move forward together. You can complete the survey online at http://bit.ly/2MEkGjE. For every survey completed, we will donate £5 to the NHS. 

As we wait for the announcement on 22nd February 2021, I can assure you that my team are working to prepare the town centre for its reopening in the hope that together we can push forward into spring and summer. I for one cannot wait for the town centre to fully reopen, to enjoy my regular haunts and check in with many of you. 

In the meantime, please take care and stay safe. 

Speak soon.

Matthew Sims

Chief Executive, Croydon BID

 

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