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Experience Guildford Convincingly Win Crucial, Low Turnout Vote

Published on: 30 Oct, 2022
Updated on: 1 Nov, 2022

By Hugh Coakley

Experience Guildford move into their third five-year term after a crucial 78 per cent positive vote from the town centre business ratepayers. But there was a low voter turnout of only 29 per cent.

The result showed a marked decrease in turnout since 2017 when 54 per cent voted with 85 per cent in favour.

The question posed to the 555 eligible votes from business ratepayers was: “Are you in favour of renewing the Business Improvement District arrangements for a further period of five years?”

In order to win the vote two thresholds had to be crossed. First, they needed to win a majority of individual votes cast and second, a majority of the rateable value of those who participated.

127 businesses voted ‘yes’ and 35 voted ‘no’. Yes voters also represented 91 per cent of the rateable value of those who voted.

Declaration on Thursday, October 27 of the postal ballot of 555 eligible business ratepayers showed 78 per cent in favour of Experience Guildford continuing for a further five years.

The turnout was “disappointing” said one trader in the town. “Do the other 71 per cent even know what’s going on?” he said.

Amanda Masters was “pleased with the positive vote”.

Experience Guildford CEO Amanda Masters said she was “so pleased we have got a positive result”.

The majority in individual votes and in the rateable value of those who voted means the current Business Improvement District (BID) team will be implementing the new Business Plan 2022 up to 2027 when another vote will be held.

Biddle owners Neil Heaven and David Goddard on hearing the result from The Dragon reporter said: “Very good. They are positive force in the town especially the town rangers. If they weren’t here, we would miss them. Who else would do the work they do?”

Ben Darnton from Ben’s Collectors Records said: “I am pleased but I thought it would be closer this time”. He added a warning to Experience Guildford that they had to show value for money. He said: “As a shopkeeper with rising costs, myself and other independents and the public all need to keep track of these costs”.

Greg Foster, owner of the independent skate shop, Decade, was unimpressed wth the size of the “yes” vote.

Long-term opponent of the Business Improvement District (BID) Greg Foster of the skater shop Decade in Jeffries Passage had organised a low key “Bin The BID” campaign but this did not appear to have swayed the voters.

A survey by The Dragon in late August 2022 showed 62 per cent of retail businesses intended to vote “yes”, 20 per cent “no” and 18 per cent were undecided. In the event, the “no” vote remained constant with those who were undecided coming out in favour of “yes”.

Foster was not impressed by the scale of the victory. He said: “If you take out the 27 GBC votes, only around 100 companies actually voted for Experience Guildford to continue. It was hardly a landslide.”

The vote had been marred by the reported loss of some ballot papers before the October 27 voting deadline. Amanda Masters said: “We are aware a number of ballots were not delivered, we think because of the postal delivery strike. We tried to get replacement ballots sent to people who told us they hadn’t received their ballot but we could only do so much. In many cases, we were told too late.

“We have no access to the voting system so we don’t know how many votes were affected.”

She also commented on the choice of a postal ballot for the vote and suggested an online ballot next time. She said: “It does seem an outdated way to do a vote. We should be able to have a secure online ballot which would probably be better but we have to follow the rules and they required a postal ballot.”

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