April's Insight from Chris Turner


As Spring becomes very evident, life becomes busier and busier; the BID community is working hard with levy payers across the country opening up towns and cities, sorting out festivals and events and planning for the Summer; the government has been active in its levelling up agenda. 

There have been eight successful ballots since last month’s Insight: Bury Town Centre, Bournemouth Coastal, Bournemouth Town Centre, Staines BID, Love Hastings, Fleet BID, Enniskillen and South Wimbledon Business Area. As ever the full details are in our British BIDs member service Ballot Watch and BID Index.

The Business Improvement District community has weathered the COVID pandemic better than anyone expected and the British BIDs Spring Report, which is coming out in a few weeks' time for Quarter 1 2022 is very positive. There are now 331 BIDs in the British Isles, that contribute £145,759,773 each year to their business communities and represent 124,310 businesses; this is an increase of seven BIDs over last year. There have been 13 new BIDs in the past twelve months, a sign that the business community recognises the importance of BIDs and what they provide. There are 50 BIDs at the development stage; this is an important measure, as it gives a sense of the supply chain and growth of the sector. 

At the start of the pandemic, two years ago, there were major concerns over ballots; during the past twelve months these were unfounded; there have been 86 ballots with 82 successful outcomes and four failures. Ballot turnout in the last twelve months, as the pandemic came and went, was on average 40.2% and the ballot results by rateable value were 78.88% and by number 82.6%. This is a better performance than the eighteen-year normal; with an average improvement of some 6.9 percentage points in the RV vote and 5.98 percentage points in the vote by number, compared to the average 18-year results. Turnout was, however reduced, but only by 5.1 percentage points. 

The Government’s vision and ambition for the new £2.6bn UK Shared Prosperity Fund (UKSPF), which succeeds the old EU structural funds, was launched on April 13 and it will clearly be a key initiative for many BIDs to engage with their local authorities. This money will go straight to local places right across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to invest in three local priorities: communities and place, support for local businesses and people and skills. The Fund provides £2.6 billion of new funding for local investment by March 2025, with all areas of the UK receiving an allocation from the Fund via a funding formula rather than a competition. It will help places right across the country deliver enhanced outcomes and recognises that even the most affluent parts of the UK contain pockets of deprivation and need support. Find more information about the UKSPF here. The submissions window is 30 June 2022 to 1 August 2022; and first payments are expected to arrive with local authorities from October 2022. Despite its vital role, it has already received some criticism from the Welsh government, which said it was due to lose out on more than £1bn in funding over the next three years for not matching the previous EU funding level of £1.5bn a year until 2025. IPPR North said the government’s Shared Prosperity Fund was a 43% cut in real terms compared with the average annual EU grants of £1.5bn between 2014 and 2020. 

BIDs are always seeking ways to support their levy payers and for many training has been a key deliverable. SeedL Group are a digital learning technology company that some BIDs are already using, and they have just completed a survey and are doing more to support Business Improvement Districts with training provisions for their levy paying businesses, including all the employees within each business. Using SeedL, a BID can provide their levy payers access to their own branded learning platform. Once live, all a BID’s levy payers and levy payer employees can access unlimited live courses being launched specifically with BIDs in mind. On the 26 April SeedL are holding an information event for BIDs where they are going to go through all of the survey results of BIDs and levy payers on learning ambitions for business.  The link for anyone to book on is here.

Many BIDs are involved in their Local Economic Partnerships (LEPs). The 38 LEPs in England have been critical sources of innovation and capital over the years and there have been concerns over their future. The government has promised to not preside over the "death" of Local Economic Partnerships. Just over a year after it was announced, the government has set out the conclusions of its LEP review in a 13-page letter to LEP chairs and combined authority mayors. It comes after the levelling up white paper, published in February, announced that the government was “encouraging the integration of LEPs" into mayoral combined authorities, the Greater London Assembly and "county deals, where these exist”. The letter clarifies that “businesses in non-devolved areas still need the support, insights and representation” LEPs provide, so “until devolved institutions exist in an area”, the government will continue to “support Leps as they are currently constituted”. This will be a welcome relief to many BIDs. Find more information here.

In the conversations across BIDs the matters of transport and travel, cars and car parking, and how they relate to the growing concerns on environmental, sustainable and governance [ESG] issues keep recurring, and many of us have major concerns. A recent paper used real-world data and ranked the most successful measures European cities have introduced. The research produced a clear, evidence-based answer to the question: what works to reduce car use in cities? They screened almost 800 peer-reviewed reports and case studies from throughout Europe published since 2010 and used real world data to rank the 12 most effective measures that European cities have introduced. The study, published in Case Studies on Transport Policy, finds that more than 75% of the urban innovations that have successfully reduced car use were led by a local city government. Notably, those that have proved most effective, such as a congestion charge, parking and traffic controls, and limited traffic zones. The most successful cities typically combine a few different policy instruments, including to encourage more sustainable travel choices, and charging for, or restricting driving and parking. The research is clear: to improve health outcomes, meet climate targets and create more liveable cities, reducing car use should be an urgent priority. BIDs will need to reflect and engage on some of these issues over the next few years as fuel pricing and green policies bite harder.

As ever British BIDs continues to provide training and development, with our next Professional Development Day in Coventry, looking at BIDs, Culture and Communities, on April 27th. New semesters of the Certificate in BID Management  starting on June 15th and the Diploma in BID Leadership starting on May 10th and twelve separate training days each running several times during the year in both virtual and real mode. The full details are on our web site https://britishbids.info/.

We also continue to produce industry podcasts. You can listen to our latest podcast with Hinckley BID on The British BIDs Podcast on the usual channels such as Apple and Spotify. 

Professor Christopher Turner, Chief Executive, British BIDs

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