August's insight by Chris Turner


We are very much at the height of the summer and BIDs are actively involved in events and levy payer support; we are also starting to plan for Christmas!

Despite the summer we have seen four ballots in the last four weeks, and they have all been successful; we congratulate Blackburn EDZ, The Fitzrovia Partnership, Orpington 1st and Successful Sutton.

The Conservative party leadership election and the very rapid change of Ministers in the last few weeks has left much of Government in stasis until a new Prime Minister is announced on September 5th.

Nonetheless, somethings are progressing. The new Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Greg Clark MP, announced a new Levelling Up Parks Fund which will create new and improved parks in urban areas, helping communities to come together and enjoy the outdoors. In England, the cash will be given to councils to create or significantly revamp existing parks in 85 neighbourhoods most deprived of outdoor space. Areas set to benefit include Liverpool, Birmingham, Carlisle and 16 London boroughs. The government believes that the new parks will significantly increase access to quality green space for those who need it most, particularly supporting people without a garden to spend time with friends and family in the natural world. From community gardens to formal greens and town parks – councils will be able to choose the nature and location of the new or improved parks in their local area, meaning that each green space will be as unique as the community it serves. It is clear that one of the major outcomes of the lockdown has been an appreciation and need for public green spaces, and many BIDs have been involved in projects of this sort. Find out more here.

Devolution is a further strand in the government’s levelling up agenda and the latest, the York and North Yorkshire deal will unlock significant long-term funding and give local leaders greater freedom to decide how best to meet local needs and create new opportunities for the people who live and work there. The government says that this agreement is the first step in a process of further devolution. BIDs are increasingly part of these new devolved models, and it is interesting that the deal specifies [§38] that the mayor will have the power to introduce a supplement on business rates for expenditure on a project or projects that will promote economic development in the area, subject to a ballot of affected businesses. This will extend the business rates supplement model to the devolved authority.

A further five high streets across England have been named Community Improvement Districts (CID) as part of a pioneering new initiative by Power to Change, which backs community business in England that trade for the benefit of local people. Each will be awarded a total of £20k alongside expert support and guidance to begin establishing, managing and running their Community Improvement District. Community Improvement Districts already operate in Scotland and build on Business Improvement Districts, where businesses collaborate to effect change in an area in order to spur regeneration and boost business. The key difference with Community Improvement Districts is that they seek to provide local people, and community organisations, as well as businesses, a say over the strategic direction of local high streets which is vital to creating sustainable town centres for the future. These pilots will explore and test how Community Improvement Districts could work in different places. The involvement of the community in shaping their town centres will bring many positive impacts: increasing residents’ sense of ownership and responsibility for their high street. Power to Change believe that Community organisations moving onto the high street could provide diverse and vibrant activities, services and places for people to meet. All of this will strengthen the local economy. The new Pilots are Skelmersdale, Lancashire; Hendon, Sunderland; Ipswich, Suffolk; Stretford, Greater Manchester; and Wolverton, Milton Keynes. These places join Kilburn High Road and Wood Green, in north London, named England’s first Community Improvement Districts earlier this year. There is of course still much to debate and resolve about businesses paying their BID levies to existing BID companies, which might then be diverted to projects that are community and resident led and an essential piece on these projects is Ben Stephenson’s Discussion Paper.

Office take-up is increasing speedily post-pandemic in many parts of the British Isle. In Cardiff it has reached 214,708 sq ft, the highest half year take-up since 2016, and 133.6% above H1 2021. Apparently, occupiers are looking to provide the best workplace environment for their employees. Hybrid working has led to a lot of businesses focusing more on amenity and thinking more creatively about the design of their workspace to attract employees back to the office and perform effectively and there is an increase in demand from companies seeking modern space on flexible leases, with good levels of demand reported by serviced offices providers such as Regus, Chadwick Business Centres and Clockwise. Incubator hubs, such as Tramshed, are also proving popular with startups. You can find more information here.

The new Business Rate changes are looming and one of the many pressures on business and BID budgets next year will be the new 2023 rateable values, which are being revised by the Valuation Office Agency on the data they collected last year. The draft rateable values are normally made available to businesses in December, and they will need to be checked for clear factual errors. Before that, in the Autumn there will be the announcement of the Universal Business Rate multiplier for 2023/24 and any transitional adjustment arrangements. BID levy payers may well need help at this stage, when they can appeal to the VOA, and the systems are not easy. The Government have made very clear they see “little value in ripping the system up and starting afresh, as has been suggested by a small minority” and as the system has to stay ‘fiscally neutral’, in the Chancellor’s own words, then any changes in liability are paid for by others across the country. View the Business Rates Review here.

A useful timeline chart and commentary is available here. The instant impact of this will be on those BIDs moving onto the new 2023 list under their BID arrangements, who may well see major changes in their levy income. Of course, it will affect us all eventually and it is a key question for each BID as it comes up to ballot; do we stay with an old ratings list based on the 2017 valuation or do we move onto a new ratings list based on the 2023 updated valuations. There are issues of stable BID budgets; stable bills for levy payers, reflecting the latest market valuations, and concerns about software costs if we stay with outdated lists in five years’ time. The government is committed to moving onto a three-year review cycle, so we shall be facing this again in 2026 and this will become an important strategic decision for many BIDs, after the long six- and seven-year reviews of the past.

The 2022 National BIDs Conference will be taking place on Thursday 3rd November at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. The event will be held in one of the stadium's spectacular event spaces, which overlooks the one-of-a-kind pitch. We're looking forward to another year of connecting, learning and networking with the industry and you can book your place here: https://bookings.britishbids.info/event/national_bids_conference_2022_03112022#init

The second cohort of the 2022 of the Diploma in BID Leadership is starting on September the 22nd by zoom and places are filling speedily. So if you have an interest do please get in touch details are here https://britishbids.info/services/diploma-in-bid-leadership


Professor Christopher Turner, Chief Executive, British BIDs

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