Now a flood of enterprise

Now a flood of enterprise

A Business Improvement District could be the very mop to revive a city’s rain swamped economy. Steve Matthews, bookseller extraordinar, tells Brian Nicholls how revisiting this idea could give Carlisle financial impact.

Even reading one book every day, it would take you more than 820 years to get through all the books Steve Matthews could offer. Obviously well read himself, the former school head of English, now a noted antiquarian bookseller, author and publisher is, however, far from introspective.

He’s been publicly campaigning for the support of fellow business bosses as he advances a proposal that could do lots to get Carlisle back on its commercial feet after the financially disastrous floods.

Steve hopes other business leaders of Carlisle city will vote with him to establish a Business Improvement District (BID) like those already boosting economies for many other city and town centres, both in Britain and overseas.

Business run BIDs attract more shoppers and visitors, bringing more revenue, through improved retail and environment. They’re funded by a compulsory levy on business rates, and exist only if a majority of businesses in a defined district agree to the levy.

If Steve’s powers of persuasion prevail it will be second time lucky. An earlier vote for a Carlisle BID, in which Steve again figured, failed narrowly. Steve chairs Carlisle City Centre Business Group, and the group is asking Carlisle City Council to conduct another ballot. He’s confident a recast in March or April, under different conditions, will succeed.

Certainly if investment is forthcoming it’s hard for a visitor to believe a BID would fail to uplift Carlisle’s economy – not only through its retail appeal. It has for starters a remarkable history which, Steve says, is sorely understated as a tourist earner. He cites: