A BOLD attempt to bring businesses together to improve Southend is celebrating its first year.

This month marks the first anniversary of Southend’s Business Improvement District (Bid) initiative, which now has 370 High Street and seafront businesses on board and has raised about £400,000 in its first year.

Since its launch, those behind the scheme have kept local residents, shoppers and visitors lingering longer in the town centre with a number of initiatives to make life easier for them.

The Southend Bid was launched after a ballot of businesses in the area asking if they would be willing to pay an annual levy for schemes to improve the town.

Those taking part in the scheme donate 1.5 per cent of what they pay for business rates into the kitty for town centre improvements.

Since then the town has had new bins, a child safety scheme, street wardens and banners to brighten up the town centre and make it a safer place to be.

Dawn Jeakings, Southend Bid chairman and Royals Shopping Centre manager, said: “There has been much said about the state of the nation’s High Streets, in the face of the boom in internet shopping.

“Our job was to take a pragmatic approach to the decline in potential visitor numbers and give customers a fresh set of reasons to shop in a traditionally buzzy, fun and pleasant environment.”

Businesses have given the first year of the scheme a resounding thumbs-up.

Andrea Harrison, assistant manager at Mallards jewellers, said: “It’s been very good. It’s pushing Southend more and our business has been very involved in it, so it’s pushing that as well.

“It is nice to have the rangers on the High Street who you can approach.

“They patrol the streets and if the buskers are too loud, they will move them on or tell them to turn it down a bit. People ask them directions as well. I think what we pay is well worthwhile.”

Mark Miller, from Ohsoboho, said: “It has definitely been worth it. It’s been very productive and very beneficial for the town. Some of the events, like the Purple Fest, have been really succesful.

“I see events they have in the High Street pulling in the crowds and the rangers, which I see four to five times a day walking up and down the High Street are helping lots of people out.

“The child safety wrist bands have also been a good initiative.

We pay about £850 a year and hopefully we can recoup that.

“The webs i t e has been very succesful. We have benefited a lot from that.”

John Lamb, deputy leader of Southend Council and councillor responsible for regeneration, said: “I think Bid has had a very positive impact on the town. It has been very helpful and useful.

“Businesses have become more and more involved in what’s going on in the High Street and seafront. The street wardens have been very well received by people and have been very much appreciated. It’s been a real success.”