Maidstone voters deal blow to Government project
The Government's plan for Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) to devolve responsibility for services such as cleaning, security and marketing in city centre retail pitches has received a blow, after businesses at Maidstone in Kent threw out BID proposals.

The Maidstone BID was rejected by local businesses. In the mandatory ballot of companies in the town centre, the promoters fell short of a majority by only five votes. Some 49 per cent of votes cast were in favour of the BID, on a voter turnout of just 33 per cent. However, three BIDs have successfully overcome the ballot hurdle, with Kingston, Heart of London (covering Piccadilly and Leicester Square) and now Coventry winning the required majorities.

National BIDs Pilot project director Jacquie Reilly said research in Maidstone had showed a comfortable majority of businesses in favour, but the supporters failed to get their voters out for the ballot itself. 'We have always said that delivering voters to the polls was going to be particularly hard for smaller centres because of the resources required both in terms of manpower and finances,' she said.

Maidstone will go back to the voters with a revised proposal in three months' time, but now all eyes are on the UK's biggest BID proposal - the New West End Company. This covers Oxford Street, Regent Street and Bond Street, and businesses have until March 15 to register their votes.