Human signs and “chuggers” are in the line of fire for the body set up to improve Birmingham city centre as traders get set to go to the polls to decide whether to keep it for a second term.
The city centre’s shops and businesses will vote in October on whether they want to continue paying a levy on their rates to keep the business improvement district Retail Birmingham going.
The organisation is publishing a manifesto with its vision for the second term – which focuses on promoting the area, enhancing the shopping experience as well as making sure the city centre stays open for business amid the redevelopment of New Street Station and extension of the Midlands Metro system.
One particular area of focus is what have become known as “charity muggers” or “chuggers” – paid charity fundraisers in the street – which Retail Birmingham believes harms the shopping experience.
People holding large advertising boards have also been singled out.
Jonathan Cheetham, chairman of Retail Birmingham and general manager at The Pallasades shopping centre, said: “We will also continue to tackle street nuisances to enhance visitors’ emotional experience when in the city.
“By reducing the number of ‘human signs’ and charity data collectors we can create a world-class walking environment that ensures footfall remains high and Birmingham keeps its place as one of the top shopping destinations in the UK.”
A business improvement district (BID) is a partnership between a local authority and the business community to develop projects and services to benefit the trading environment of a certain area.
Business in the city centre pay a one per cent levy on their rates towards Retail Birmingham, which goes towards initiatives like the city centre shopping guide and map, the Style Birmingham campaign and the Retail Birmingham Awards.
Retail Birmingham, which had an income of £779,872 for 2011-12, counts retailers, restaurants, bars and services firms among its members.
The BID was first set up in 2007 with an initial term of five years, and is now looking to be voted in for another five years.
Mike Ferguson, owner of gift store Smithsonia, based in Piccadilly Arcade, said he would be voting for a BID extension.
He is on the board of the organisation as a representative of the independents sector.
Mr Ferguson pointed to the work Retail Birmingham had done bringing in flowers, cleaning the streets and street wardens.
But he added: “It needs to be built on and reinforced and it’s important the independents have a slice of the action.”
But the owner of another independent, Trenchers sandwich bar and coffee shop on Bennetts Hill, was not so taken with Retail Birmingham’s efforts.
Simon Dilkes said: “When you’re in the service industry like I am you tend to be a bit forgotten – especially as my financial contribution is very modest.
“They will say they’ve got the independents’ forum but I don’t think they do a lot for independents.”