The Ballot Bin: Southend BID introduces an innovative solution to cigarette litter
Smoking might be on the decline, but cigarettes are still the most littered item in the world by far: around 4.5 trillion are dropped on the ground every year. As a result, 80% of British streets have cigarette litter and areas with high footfall often struggle to keep it under control.
At Hubbub we specialise in changing behaviours around sticky problems like this. We’re an environmental charity focused on creative, positive campaigns that create greener and more sustainable lifestyles. Our best-known product is the Ballot Bin, an ashtray that reduces cigarette litter by around 50% by encouraging smokers to ‘vote’ with their cigarette butts for one of two options. Our first question was ‘Who is the best footballer in the world? Ronaldo or Messi’, and from one unit on a street in Westminster the Ballot Bin was featured in the Daily Mail, BBC News and went viral online.
Now there are Ballot Bins in over 20 countries worldwide. In the UK we are working increasingly closely with councils and BIDs, and we were delighted when Southend BID decided to install 21 Ballot Bins in multiple different colours around the town centre. Alison Dewey, CEO of Southend BID, envisioned a ‘rainbow’ of these bright, fun and effective ashtrays all around the BID area and convinced her colleagues and board to take the plunge. We caught up with her a few weeks after they went up to find out what happened.
Q: Why did you decide to use the Ballot Bin to tackle cigarette litter?
A: We were planning on doing an anti-litter campaign in Southend and we knew about Hubbub’s work which makes it fun and appealing to young people. They are causing a lot of the litter so it made sense. We have 6.5 million people visiting every year so we were desperate to find a good solution and fast! Our branding for Visit Southend is very colourful and we wanted the Ballot Bins to reflect that, which is why we have them in seven different colours!
Q: What has the response been like?
A: When we put it on social media the response was incredible. It got so much praise from councillors, the public, media – right across the board. It’s just a great way to tackle cigarette litter. Jamie Oliver was in Southend for a month and he did an Instagram story on the first day we put them up! It’s been in all the local media, one of our Councillors said he was blown away by their impact and even the neighbouring council in Basildon have starting talking about them!
Q: What kinds of questions have you been putting on your Ballot Bins?
A: We’ve tried to make the questions interesting and engaging and that seems to make a real difference. We’ve done sport ones outside pubs, one about rappers outside a nightclub and even a quite risqué question outside Ann Summers! The most popular one has been ‘Donald Trump: Dream or Nightmare’. It’s getting so full every week that people are trying to ram cigarettes in when there’s no room left! Early evaluation by the cleansing team suggests it’s reducing cigarette litter in that spot by 60-66%.
Q: Has the Ballot Bin affected how you think about approaching litter in future?
A: Yes, next we are going to try some of other fun ways of reducing and preventing general litter such as using talking bins and doing two-minute beach cleans – maybe even a silent disco beach- clean like Hubbub did in Brighton recently!
Hubbub are offering BIDs a free logo laser-engraving (worth £75) for all orders of 10 or more Ballot
Bins. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org / 0203 701 7544 for more details.
Written by Natalie Dickson, Nottingham BID
Embarking on an academic journey for the first time in a long time was slightly nerve wracking when I signed up to complete British BID’s Certificate in BID Management. It’s been a while since I had been in an educational environment (I’m showing my age there) and I was unsure as to whether certain areas of my brain could even be accessed any more. Still, it was with great excitement that I received the course materials ahead of the first few days of study and I felt an instant sense of relief as the course is bespoke to the BID industry and it confirmed that the industry is something that I am passionate about and as a result learning more about the field gave me a new sense of enthusiasm.
However, thinking about walking into a classroom again on day one was still daunting- meeting new people and going to new places are both things that would instigate mild anxiety into the most extrovert of people. Yet again I felt another huge sense of relief on getting to the (very beautiful) venue. The group is small so it was really easy to get to know each other and get a flavour of everyone’s individual BIDs.
Now, putting the course itself aside (which is great and has learning have already been put to use in my BID) a massive additional benefit for me was actually meeting people from the BID industry. The nature of BID’s is that we work focused within our own geographical areas so don’t really get much opportunity to network with each other and share best practice and some of the challenges that we face as an industry. This aspect of speaking to each other about how we handle daily challenges and how to speak to levy payers that won’t engage is invaluable. Sometimes just knowing that you aren’t the only one facing a problem really helps to push through it. Sometimes finding out what somebody else is doing to overcome issues can help you to focus on the direction you want to go in. Sometimes just having a good old fashioned chinwag over a glass of wine (after the course has finished naturally) can REALLY help.
I’m now coming up to the last couple of days of the course ahead of our dissertations and I must say I’m quite sad that our group shall soon be going our separate ways (hopefully all with a new qualification under their belt). But it’s great to know that I now have a network that I can consult with and share advice with all over the country, and I’m sure a few more glasses of wine will be shared in the future too.
Written by Thomas-Zane Black, Bromley BID
I wanted an opportunity that allows me a professional qualification that’s industry specific and to network with peers. I enjoy working in an environment where we can share ideas and the course allows us to share our experiences and what works best or not so well. Most importantly, I need to have an insight into the rules and regulations that bind a BID. This qualification covers all aspects of working within this particular environment, namely; Principles of BIDs, BID regulations and policy, Governance and levy rules, and Operational management of BIDs. As the course is part-time I’m able to fit it in around my experiences of my job at Bromley Bid.
I’m hoping to be more knowledgeable in the guiding principles of BID regulations and policy and the operational management it requires. With this knowledge I’m aiming to be a strong team player and offer value in my local BID. I’d like to stay in touch with colleagues I’ve met on the course, particularly peers out of London to see what they’re doing in their areas and if it would be applicable to do in our area, as well as sharing what our team are up to. I think it’s important to show professionalism to our businesses and present a cohesive front. I need to understand the reasoning behind why we are doing certain things instead of them just happening.
I started working for Your Bromley Business Improvement District less than a year ago and boy was it a baptism of fire! New names, new weird and wonderful terminologies such as Ballot Process, BID proposal, baseline services and hereditaments to name just a few. Having managed to master most – but not all – of these terminologies I take it for granted why we are actually doing the things we do – without really knowing the thought process of why we are doing them. I’ve completed the first four days of the course and suddenly everything seems to fall in place.
The course has been interesting and has helped me. The tutors are very engaging and knowledgeable and lead the course at a good pace.
It’s been well worth my time and trying to fit in assignments and a busy job has become a personal fait accompli. I feel my thesis and once it’s implemented will be something to add value to local businesses and the consumer. I would definitely recommend this course as a well worth investment to anyone working on a BID.
Written by British BIDs Team
Here are some answers to the questions we have already been asked today by BID Managers, following the news that Theresa May has called for a snap general election on 8 June.
Q: Does the timing of the General Election have any effect on my BID ballot which is being held in June?
A: Given that the General Election has been called for 8 June, your Notification to Secretary of State will already be in and you will be at an advanced stage of development/renewal with your Local Authority. Therefore, even if your ballot is on 8 June your Local Authority will be obliged to allow your ballot. Whether you keep it on this date is a decision for you and your Board.
Q: Can we change the final date of our ballot if it is on the same date, or close to, that of the General Election?
A: This is not recommended unless in extreme circumstances, but it is possible. As long as the Notice of Ballot has not been issued or the timeline provided to the Secretary of State is changed.
Q: Will the General Election affect our ballot outcome?
A: The reality is probably not – but it might affect the turnout detrimentally. Also note that the regulations state that an announcement of ballot result should be as soon as reasonably possible after the closure of the ballot. (Schedule 2, s.17 of 2004 BID regulations). An election might delay the announcement of the result if the Local Authority election team are tied up with the General Election.
Q: Are there other factors we should consider?
A: You must review your communications plan, especially your PR messaging and timings. It is very likely that your messages will be lost or mixed up amongst those of the General Election so you will need to be exceptionally clear in your strategy.
Q: Does the General Election have an effect on local politics and interaction with the BID?
A: The period of purdah, in which local MP’s are restricted in their interaction with activities outside of political campaigning could change how you are working with your local MP. For example, your MP might be launching your business plan. If this falls during purdah they might not want to, or be able to do this.
Q: Our ballot is in the period just after the General Election result will have been announced. Does this matter?
A: A Local Authority election team who would normally be available may be less contactable in this period. Also, depending on your local candidates your Local Authority might be reluctant to take your ballot information and support it as they normally would, depending on any changes and so on.
Written by Lee Walker, Research and Development Manager.
The House of Lords Select Committee has this week published its post-legislative scrutiny report on the effects of the Licensing Act 2003. The report highlights the value of the Night Time Economy (NTE) to the wider community. It provides strong support for the principles of BIDs and a number of voluntary schemes which BIDs often administer in a location. According to the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG), the NTE today accounts for 10–16% of UK town centre employment (and an even higher proportion in London), and contributed over £1 billion in business rates in 2013/14.
The report draws a series of conclusions and makes several recommendations including:
• The idea of establishing a Café Culture in the UK has not been successful in terms of a cultural shift in the attitudes of people towards the consumption of alcohol. However a physical shift has taken place with 2,000 pubs closing and 6,000 cafes, fast food outlets and restaurants opening.
• Alcohol sales are heavily concentrated in the off trade sector, accounting for 70% of sales in 2016.
• Licensing Committee members often have not been given sufficient training in the complexities of licensing to be able to make fully informed decisions. The report recommends that more training is provided beyond the standard three hours.
• Planning and Licensing Committees should be merged to take advantage of the well-established planning process and its more experienced staff.
• Early Morning Restriction Orders have been viewed by businesses as draconian. To date, none have been implemented and the report recommends they should be scrapped.
• Late Night Levies have only been introduced in nine locations. There are concerns around the money being spent in the area it is collected and the extent to which a 70/30 split between the Police and Local Authority is appropriate. The report suggests these should be repealed or changed to make them more effective.
The Committee offers strong support for the principle of BIDs and in particular their accountability to local businesses;
“The Committee has seen considerable evidence suggesting that Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) can achieve similar, and indeed often better, more flexible and more innovative results than Late Night Levies while also Proving more acceptable to local businesses…we welcome all the initiatives of which we heard evidence, including BIDs, Best Bar None, Purple Flag and others, and recognise the effort which goes into them and the potential they have to control impacts and improve conditions in the Night Time Economy. We commend the flexibility which such schemes appear to offer, and the bespoke way in which they are developed to match the needs of their locality.”
To read the full report please click here.
Written by Chris Wade, Director, People & Places Partnership Ltd (aka @man_about_towns)
Will ‘smart travel’ ease parking pressures?
If like us at the People & Places Partnership, you spend a lot of time asking businesses what they think about town centre issues, you will know one topic that is always a top priority.
Parking! On average we find over half of businesses in every town or city centre will be negative about parking and related traffic issues. Here we look to the near future to understand the prospects for improving town centre traffic and parking through ‘smart travel’.
Autonomous Vehicles: As the first driverless cars hit the UK’s streets, the prospects for urban motoring look positive. Vehicles will soon become available which can undertake increasingly large proportions of journeys autonomously. With only 25% take-up, Government-backed studies project a 12% improvement in delays, 21% improvement in journey times and a near 80% improvement in journey reliability. Think cars that no longer need to park!
Smart Parking: We’ve been watching this ‘space’ carefully. Technology is already in use that offers directions to spaces; ‘invisible’ payment; variable tariffs according to demand; and linked discounts for loyal customers. Over the next few years this technology will become easier to use and better integrated. This is where ‘quick wins’ can happen to differentiate your destination by improving convenience, costs and congestion.
Vehicle Sharing: This covers different ways a car can be shared by users. Taxi pools and car clubs in particular have the potential to grow in cities first because there will be the necessary number of ‘early adopters’ to make the services viable. ‘UberPool’ for example, turns a standard taxi ride into a miniature bus service by matching riders travelling in the same direction.
Intelligent Mobility: This is the hidden innovation that will be behind so many improvements to transport service in and between our towns and cities. Think of intelligent mobility as a joined-up service focusing on the ‘software’ rather than simply the ‘hardware’ of cars, trains, roads and rails. Government-backed research estimates that the UK Intelligent Mobility market will be worth up to £56bn per annum in future.
The impacts of these and other ‘smart travel’ innovations will be felt progressively over the next decade and the prospects could be positive for town centres. It will be increasingly important for the BIDs industry and strategies for individual town and city centres to become ‘plugged in to’ these opportunities to improve the convenience of town centre travel, alleviate parking pressure, reduce costs and ease congestion.
Written by Steve Sawyer, Executive Director of Manor Royal BID
A “place” for an Industrial Strategy
Business leaders seem to be broadly positive about the Government’s recent Industrial Strategy and at 132 pages at least there is plenty to read. With so much uncertainty around, to know the Government is committed to doing what it can to support the UK economy has to be a good thing.
Attributing specific successes to past industrial strategies, however, is a bit like trying to pin a jelly to a dart board.
History shows, both at home and abroad, that the adopted approach of the day has sometimes led to poor decision making, undue influence being levered by too few big corporations and money being used unwisely in futile attempts to “back winners” or bail out failing businesses.
Most, I’m sure, would caution against a highly interventionist approach. Conversely, attempts by Government to be more liberal, to step back, to deregulate and allow the market a freehand has been cited as a contributing factor in runaway markets characterised by boom and bust, the like of which we are still feeling the effects of.
Overall, on paper, this Industrial Strategy appears to strike a pretty decent balance focussing on our core strengths while providing support for upgrading infrastructure, investing in R&D and various actions to improve productivity and growth.
The thing is business doesn’t happen on paper – it happens in places. Encouragingly the Government has made a nod to this as well. As they put it “A modern industrial strategy will have recognition of the importance of place at its heart.”
Alas, on this point my enthusiasm for the Industrial Strategy drops off somewhat as the discussion turns to the same old approach and the same old institutions with talk of local clusters, rebalancing the economy, local authorities and LEPs. There’s a passing reference to certain “anchor” businesses playing their part and the role of local business associations as advocates but it’s very cursory and a long way from truly encapsulating a sense of place as I understand it to be.
It would seem we are still a way away from a true understanding of place and the full range of organisations that play a part in creating it, making it, living it and managing it. I’m not convinced that relying on LEPs and Local Authorities to provide the answers with business on the side is the right way when it comes to place management.
What I would like is to see is a much better recognition of the importance of people and places – by that I mean local people and local places. Business does not exist in a vacuum. They made trade globally, but they exist in a specific place and it’s in that place that they employ people, source suppliers and spend money both directly and indirectly in the local community.
It’s at the local level that this knowledge exists and where the most effective interventions can be made to ensure the local environment is conducive to attracting and retaining businesses. By devolving power and funding as far as possible to the local level allowing businesses the freedom to work alongside other local partners and communities to make the decisions most relevant to them in the place where they are and in ways important to them will help create a renaissance in places across the country from which we will all benefit.
Of course, this cannot be done without action on infrastructure, skills, appropriate regulation and efforts to increase innovation and productivity but equally it cannot be done unless the places we expect businesses to operate are places they want to be and where their staff want to be.
I think someone once called this localism but really it’s just plain common sense and BIDs have their place in that place agenda.
My final plea is to not forget the role that business parks, out of town office developments and industrial estates play. There are many articulate on the state of the high street, and they have my support, but far fewer make the case for the somewhat less sexy industrial areas.
So, here’s to a place based Industrial Strategy that actually includes support for industrial places as well as our town and city centres. That truly would be a good place to be.