June's Insight from Chris Turner


It is now midsummer; the reopening has been put off for a further four weeks and BIDs across the four administrations are flat-out with levy payers, helping them return to full operational activities. Some BIDs are planning their next ballots, many are working with their local authorities on collecting their levy payments, and all of us are working on safe and secure events, returning to normal and planning hard for what we all hope will be a long hot summer.

The Ballot story is slow at the moment, but the three successes are as ever encouraging: Ripon, a brand-new BID, was successful, whilst the greatly enhanced Liverpool Culture and Commerce BID and Poole BID were also both successful.

As many workers embrace a hybrid work pattern, perhaps commuting 2-3 days a week, the experiment in full-time home-working is starting to end. At the same time, assessments of its effectiveness are proliferating. Work from the Economist this week suggest that despite working longer hours, employees had less focus time than before the pandemic. Instead, all their extra time was taken up by meetings. The Economist promulgates Bartleby’s law: 80% of the time of 80% of the people in meetings is wasted. This study certainly offers evidence for the proposition, and despite working longer hours, employees may have produced less because of nervous employers and an excess of meetings!

The UK economy posted its strongest growth in business activity for more than two decades in May as shoppers rushed to the high street and the lifting of lockdown measures accelerated Britain’s economic recovery. The rebound in the manufacturing and services sectors followed a return to pre-pandemic levels of retail sales in April, according to figures published last month. The Purchasing Managers Index found that hotels, restaurants and other consumer-facing services reported the biggest upturn in demand this month, though improvements were reported across the board in all sectors, leading to the fastest growth since 1998 PMI. The UK is enjoying a growth spurt as the economy reopens, factory orders are surging at a record pace, and the service sector is reporting near-record growth as the opening up of the economy allows more businesses to trade. Business confidence has meanwhile hit an all-time high as concerns about the impact of the pandemic continue to fade.

But there were two very major concerns that many of our levy payers believe government needed to resolve. First, we need an extension of six months to the ban on landlords evicting tenants, and with perfect timing it was announced yesterday that the existing measures in place to protect commercial tenants from eviction will be extended to 25 March 2022. This is to ensure that the sectors who are unable to open have enough time to come to an agreement with their landlord without the threat of eviction (more info here) and second, we need a government-backed framework to share the accumulated pain of unpaid rents. Hospitality firms particularly are estimated to have built up £2.5bn of unpaid rent during the pandemic, potentially killing thousands of businesses before they’ve had a chance to try to trade their way out of crisis. The new announcement suggests that new legislation will help tenants and landlords work together to come to an agreement on how to handle the money owed – this could be done by waiving some of the total amount or agreeing a longer-term repayment plan. This agreement should be between the tenant and landlord and, if in some cases, an agreement cannot be made, the law will ensure a binding arbitration process will be put in place so that both parties can come to a formal agreement. This will be a legally binding agreement that both parties must adhere to.

Allied to this is the evident growth in capital spending. As lockdowns lift, people are going out and spending. Data suggests that some restaurants have been crammed for months and shopping malls are starting to fill with people splurging savings. Cinemas in Britain, which were allowed to reopen in mid-May, are packed once again. Thus, the data suggests that another spending bonanza is just beginning. Businesses are starting to invest and analysts at Morgan Stanley suggest that investment might grow to 121% of pre-recession levels by the end of 2022. Oxford Economics, a consultancy, argues that “the time looks right for a boom in capex”, while ihs Markit, a research firm, forecasts that global real fixed investment will rise by more than 6% this year (more info by The Economist here). This will impact on BIDs as our levy payers slowly benefit from the trickle-down effects.

Much of this infrastructure and capital funding will come from government and they confirmed last month the further 57 high streets across England which will share over £830m to help them reopen and recover from the pandemic. To ensure that local communities are best placed to do this they have also confirmed the UK Community Renewal Fund with an additional £220 million of investment to help support local areas to ‘pilot imaginative new approaches and programmes that unleash their potential, instil pride, and prepare them to take full advantage of the UK Shared Prosperity Fund when it launches in 2022’. An overview of all these overlapping funding streams is available here.

The CBI is adamant that this investment will have to be green and sustainable, and green investment and sustainable jobs must be central to the government’s recovery plan. Their new proposals, Principles for a low-carbon, sustainable and net-zero aligned economic recovery post COVID-19, suggest five key policy interventions aimed at harnessing the growing political business and consumer pressures to tackle the climate emergency. The CBI believe that the need to make quick progress on embedding sustainable economic growth throughout the UK is pressing. Worldwide there is growing recognition of the moral imperative to ramp-up efforts to tackle the climate crisis. And here in the UK they believe that there is also a clear economic rationale for making it a key plank of the post-pandemic recovery, harnessing the desire for action among business, consumers and politicians. Sustainable growth is the centrepiece of plans to build back better post-pandemic. The CBI believe that we must fast-forward policies like a mass energy efficiency programme and building new sustainable transport infrastructure. These steps can both help to reduce emissions and provide the kind of jobs and investment stimulus the economy needs for the longer term. These are key challenges for BIDs in a world in which the young believe passionately in a green and sustainable agenda.

As ever British BIDs continue to run a range of ten training courses, each running several times in the year, as well as our Diploma and Certificate programmes, and they are all listed on our website. It is really terrific to see so many BID staff joining us each week, gaining new ideas and meeting each other.


Professor Christopher Turner, Chief Executive, British BIDs


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