COUNCIL chiefs have rejected a request from Stratforward for £137,000 to
underwrite its continued operation for the next six months.
The town’s Business Improvement District (BID) company has like many other organisations been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic.
Stratford District Council (SDC) leader Tony Jefferson, together with Cabinet colleagues, Stratford town ward members and other senior councillors took the decision not to approve this funding in the light of the Covid-19 emergency.
SDC deputy leader Daren Pemberton explained: “This was an extremely difficult decision to make, balancing the desire to support Stratforward in its current form, against the wider challenges across all sectors of the district’s economy and the prospect that new structures will need to emerge to support economic recovery.”
“The BID has played a valuable role for its members in promoting Stratford’s retail offering and organising events such as the River Festival, which clearly will not go ahead in 2020. The district council has contributed financially to the BID’s running costs for many years. The majority of funding, however, through the member levy, due for renewal in April has dried up.
“The district council is absolutely committed to helping the district’s retail, leisure, hospitality and tourism sectors recover as quickly as possible from the economic impacts of Covid 19.
“We have already begun engaging with Stratforward, Shakespeare’s England, Leamington BID and Warwick District Council about a wider and more strategic cross sector approach to recovery planning. The Council has also lobbied central government for further national support for the work of BIDs.”
“Stratford district is in the eye of a perfect storm where all our key economic sectors including retail, leisure, hospitality tourism, automotive and agriculture are among those already hardest hit. Planning for recovery starts now and it is clear that the future of the retail, leisure, hospitality and tourism sectors in this district are inextricably intertwined. This calls for new structures agile enough to ensure Stratford district emerges stronger than before the impact of Covid-19.
Coun Pemberton added the district council would play a “pivotal strategic planning and enabling role” in conjunction with businesses, neighbouring councils and other organisations in getting teh district back on its feet.
A spokesperson for Stratforward said: “Like millions of companies in the UK, Stratforward BID is having to come to terms with what has been basically a seismic change in circumstances overnight.
“As effectively a membership organisation, reliant for its income from member businesses that themselves have had their work and income turned upside down, it is particularly vulnerable. Annual levy bills are due to go out to members in the coming days, many of whom will simply not be in a position to pay at this time.
“Stratforward has therefore been exploring alternative possible temporary income streams, as well as changes to its normal operational practises, to ensure it is able to continue its work. Stratforward, like BIDs across the country are proving to be key conduits of information and advice from Government and other stakeholder organisations to individual members. Looking ahead they will be key to any strategic economic recovery plan.
“An application to Stratford District Council was just one of those avenues being explored. We understand and respect their decision. Their limited resources and funds are being stretched in every direction at this time and they understandably have to prioritise these. We are committed to finding other solutions so that our work can continue.”