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British BIDs Guidance - Q&A


Last week, British BIDs talked to over 40 BIDs in a series of on-line Q&A sessions, the final one of which took place on Tuesday afternoon this week. We wanted to understand the most pressing issues for the BID industry amid COVID-19. We have been asked to make available just a flavour of the numerous questions the Bb team were asked:

Levy bills and finances

Q: Can we write off the next three months payments of BID levy?

A: No – the amount is owed to the local authority, not directly to the BID. Hypothetically, therefore, a local authority could ask a BID if it may write off certain levies, but the BID’s cashflow will be important in any such decision. There has been no legislation drafted as yet that would fund BIDs in the absence of levy.

Q: Can I delay sending out my levy bills? 

A: Again, it is the local authority that invoices for levy, not the BID itself. The Operating Agreement sets out your arrangements for collecting levy and should be referred to in the first instance. In the absence of legislation that relaxes this, levy bills will be sent out prior to the normal due date. Your local authority may suggest, for example, giving businesses longer to pay. Again, though, there are likely to be wider cashflow implications for any BID which would inform any such decision.

Q: Can our Board ask the council not to chase levy bill payments for this year for businesses not benefiting from business rates relief? 

A: Once again, the local authority will follow its established processes. Levy bills remain payable but there will need to be sensitivity to genuine hardships. 

Q: If necessary, can we carry over BID money from one year to the next to make sure targeted marketing can be done once the crisis is on the downturn? 

A: Yes, assuming you are within your term. You may then need to amend your budget, report a surplus in the current financial year, and then use the surplus a future period. 

Q: Is there likely to be a “Levy” Holiday?

A: Unlikely, but Bb is requesting some relief for BIDs (see separate communications) 

Q: What do I do about voluntary members of the BID?

A: You can defer payment dates, but you need to be equitable to levy payers. If the payment of a membership fee gives them rights to vote at, say, an AGM, you may need to consider postponing such meetings.


Grants

Q: What financial planning should BIDs be carrying out? 

A: There are 2 priority things to do (1) re-budgeting and re-prioritising delivery against current and future business need (subject to alteration policy); (2) cashflow forecasts. Bb will provide guidance on training on both.

Q: Can BIDs apply for the small business grants offered to other businesses? A: It would seem that they may be able to, although this may not be true in all cases (e.g. non business rates payers). Bb will explore options available and advise. 

Q: When will any £25k grant be available? 

A: Local authorities will advise.


BID ballots

Q: What happens if a BID is in its renewal ballot year?

A: Bb has requested that an extended term to be granted, thereby allowing ballots to be deferred (see separate communications).


Marketing and Events

Q: What style of communication, if any, should BIDs adopt?

A: We need softer communication that we can share with our business balancing the legality of the fee with empathy and compassion can they provide this so all BB members are consistent?

A: BIDs are advised to adopt a soft, supportive style of communication, providing factual and accurate advice, particularly with regard to the support available for businesses.

Q: Should we cancel events?

A: The situation has now changed and all gatherings are cancelled. Postponement rather than cancellation is advised. 

Q: Should we continue to promote businesses?

A: This has changed since the Prime Minister’s announcement to close shops as well as leisure and hospitality businesses, together with advice for staff to work from home. However, some businesses (food stores, chemists etc.) remain open and BIDs need to provide clear advice, particularly regarding how to keep safe whilst using such businesses. Many stores are boosting on-line and home delivery and this should be promoted. BIDs are to be ready with a ‘big recovery plan’ for when things begin to re-open.


Staff

Q: Are BID staff key workers, meaning that they should still go in to work?

A: Most BIDs have now closed their offices and staff are successfully home-working. Some BIDs may consider certain staff to be key workers but, following advice, this should be an exception.

Q: Is there a legal requirement for staffing BIDs?

A: No, but no-one is recommending that staff are laid off. The government’s ‘furloughing’ proposals need to be considered. Details of the ‘furloughing’ arrangements should be available within the next few days. Plus, individual BIDs may ask other staff to take holidays during the period in which the office is closed.

Q: Should Rangers remain on the street?

A: Only if they are considered ‘key workers’ and full risk assessments have been carried out.


Government lobbying

Q: Is there something we should be lobbying our MPs for?

A: Bb has asked government to provide Bids with sufficient funding so that retail, leisure and hospitality businesses can be exempt from levy for the next 12-months (mirroring the business rates exemption). This needs all BIDs to help in supporting the emergency request.


Any final advice?

Yes, remain in very close communication with your local authority, keep your BID Board fully appraised, and take on a supportive and advisory role for your businesses.

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