April's Insight from Chris Turner


The month continues to be focussed on COVID-19, business survival and BID survival, whilst we are surrounded by personal stories of great tragedy, huge courage and enormous gratitude to those people who are keeping us healthy, alive and fed.

Some BIDs have come through ballots successfully, and we congratulate West Bromwich, Westside in Birmingham, and Byres Road and The Lanes in Glasgow on their ballot successes.

We were concerned last month about ballots for those BIDs whose terms were coming to an end during this COVID-19 crisis, and a letter from us to the minister, and a multitude of letters from BIDs and their MPs, ensured that section 79 of the Coronavirus Act 2020 extended until March 2021 the terms of those BIDs in England which were coming up for renewal before Christmas. This gives a brief breathing space for fourteen BIDs in England and Northern Ireland and allows them to collect their levies for a further few months until March 2021.

We also asked for Government support for BIDs whose levies are not being paid, because businesses are not able or willing to pay. This is currently a mess, with no clear answer from Government, despite a large number of letters from BIDs and their MPs. As you know we sent out a survey questionnaire from the three BID organisations, which came together to work on this. The outcomes were pretty clear: just over a third of BIDs in England (34%) expect to collect somewhere between 0% and 25% of their levy for this year and 56% of BIDs do not expect to last longer than 12 weeks with some considering winding up within the next month. We are still very much hoping that some form of resilience fund for BIDs will be made available by the Ministry but have yet to hear.

We do know, from the many we are helping by way of phone calls and our Q&A sessions, that many and perhaps most BIDs are furloughing staff, working with their Boards on emergency cash flow plans and having to reduce services. However, we also know that many are planning for the revival, keeping safety and security strongly supported and working closely on new services to their members. One BID reported that they have been busier than they were in a ballot, many are working with their local NHS on supporting staff and services.

Our broad steer is that local authorities have to send out levy bills under the regulations, and that this can neither be deferred or ameliorated by a BID, which needs its money to deliver services. The operating agreement is a legal document that has to be adhered to. Bb has produced Financial Advice for BIDs updated for COVID-19 which is available here. On the other hand, some local authorities are picking up the tab themselves and not sending out bills, others are continuing to pass down to BIDs their normal phased amounts, or are refusing to collect or chase, or not sending anything out because they are home working and can’t print or are indeed having cashflow problems themselves and not able to help. So, it is a very muddled picture at the moment.


Most BIDs are continuing to provide key data and services to their members, not least footfall and safety reporting. Some BIDs are working with their local police forces to report footfall and social distancing. Others are making use of the very useful Office for National Statistics weekly data sets on footfall, business and mobility to keep their Boards and members updated.

The business data suggests around 40% of all businesses were confident they could continue operating during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, compared with 15% who were not confident and 44% who did not know. Among hotels and restaurants, only 17% were confident they would be operating for the duration of the outbreak. Interestingly, the two sectors that reported unaffected turnover in this period were professional, scientific and technical activities, and information and communication services, and this will give us some steer on levy payments. The full data is here for last week. Some businesses are operating successfully and have made clear that they most certainly will be paying their levy bills.

On footfall the very useful Google mobility data here allows us to see how both the country and each local authority is performing. The reports show how visits and length of stay at different places change compared to a baseline, using the same kind of aggregated and anonymised data used to show popular times for places in Google Maps. When compared to one's own footfall data it is interesting.

Clearly, towns and cities are varying enormously in the impact of the levels of Government support. The two major funding streams – for properties with RV below 15k and 51k have strikingly different regional impacts.  Cities in the North and Midlands have the highest shares of properties that fall below the £12,000 threshold. In Burnley, Blackburn and Blackpool, more than four in five of the properties that have their rateable values available are exempted. Meanwhile in Slough, Oxford and Cambridge it is two in five. But the geography looks very different for the properties affected by the rates holiday announcements. It is businesses in cities in the Greater South East that are overwhelmingly likely to benefit from the pause in business rates. In Oxford, Centre for Cities estimates show that around 26 per cent of properties qualify, followed by 20 per cent in London and 19 per cent in Cambridge. York is the only city in the top 10 that isn’t in the South – 18 per cent of properties will be exempt. Again, many BIDs are doing these calculations themselves and reporting back to their boards as it may impact their future planning. More details are here from the Centre for Cities.

And of course, whilst we are operating at a grim time, both financially and emotionally, others are looking to alternatives. In February Insight I mentioned the Building Better, Building Beautiful commission and this has been picked up in a great article that very much looks to the future.


At Bb we continue with our Certificate in BID Management, a whole range of new Q&A sessions, a new Podcast service, and a new series of online short Bite-Sized learning sessions on key BID issues. For further information do please email me or Drew on chris.turner@britishbids.info or drew.turner@britshbids.info

Professor Christopher Turner, Chief Executive, British BIDs


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