“As for transparency, all of our accounts are on the website” – DublinTown chief executive Richard Guiney

DIVISIONS on the benefits of Business Improvement District (BID) company DublinTown have emerged as a vote on whether to keep it in place looms.
The BID company is adamant that the services it provides have been extremely beneficial to businesses, visitors and locals in the city centre – but some businesses are opposed to paying the BID levy, claiming that they get nothing in return.
The company represents around 2,500 businesses in the city centre, spanning the Dublin 1, 2 and 8 areas, and every five years there is a vote on whether to renew the service.
DublinTown is responsible for events such as the Dublin Fashion Festival and Dine In Dublin. It also puts up the Christmas lights every year, removes graffiti from privately owned properties and disposes of drug paraphernalia from the streets.
The company also works to solve issues caused by road/Luas works, which can reduce footfall for some businesses on certain streets.
Mary Costelloe, of Costelloe + Costelloe on Chatham Street, said she will be voting against DublinTown’s renewal because she feels “they are not as good as they say they are”.
She told The Gazette: “They’re very good at saying: ‘We’ve done this and we do that’, but there’s no accountability and I just got a bit cranky with them for that.
“The fashion festival was one thing – I never heard a customer mention it, and this seems to be a big part of what they boast about doing. They never come back to us and say: ‘Did that work for you?’,” said Mary.
A campaign entitled Vote No To BID has been set up and is being spearheaded by Cllr Mannix Flynn (Ind).
The campaign claims: “DublinTown is very good at devising grandiose schemes for promoting business in the city centre. We have NEVER been asked how any of their promotions worked … or didn’t!”
Cllr Flynn argues that it is unfair that businesses should “pay a double rate to a private company”.
Speaking to The Gazette, he said: “Small companies struggle to pay rates as it is and the business community want out of a private company.”
He also criticised the company for its lack of transparency and for what he called the “draconian and punitive traffic measures” they support.
In response to such views, DublinTown’s chief executive Richard Guiney said: “Before we were set up, the city was losing market share and we were set up to counteract that – and we’ve done that.
“We’ve increased footfall, despite the fact that the Luas works are ongoing.” He added that vacancy rates have also been almost halved since then.
“The perceptions of public safety – something that has been an issue in the city for a long time – are steadily improving.”
Guiney refuted Cllr Flynn’s claims and what he termed “bizarre behaviour”. Of Cllr Flynn, he said: “He’s got his own agenda, he’s not a business person, he doesn’t pay a levy and he won’t have a vote, so I would discount his contribution to the debate.
“The ‘no’ side have put up no alternative – if they have alternatives [to DublinTown] I’d love to see them. As for transparency, all of our accounts are on the website. Businesses are not paying a double rate, it’s 1/20th of the [standard council] rate.”
For DublinTown to continue, more than 50% of its members must vote in favour of renewal this June or July, with the exact date for the vote not yet set.

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