March's Insight from Chris Turner


As spring arrives, we seem to be entering a time of greater hope and enthusiasm, and much is happening. The four weeks since the February Insight have been busy for BIDs across the country, with 17 successful ballots, in Bangor, WeAreWaterloo, MakeItEaling, Team London Bridge, Northampton, Pontypridd, Sheffield, The Bath BID Company, Bromley, Newcastle-Under-Lyme, Stakehill Industrial Estate, Whitehall, Sligo, Caernarfon, Llanelli, Marble Arch and Bangor. There have been some terrific outcomes, with BIDs clearly being supported by their levy payers at difficult times; a strong sign that we are doing that which our business levy payers need and want.

There are still some 14 BIDs coming to ballot before the end of March, and our regular Ballot Watch will keep you updated with the detailed figures; we are all hoping that these ballots are equally successful.

One key issue of the month was Chancellor Sunak’s Budget announcing a raft of measures aimed at helping retailers get back on their feet. The business rates holiday was extended, but only until the end of June in England, and the furlough scheme was extended until the end of September. The Budget also featured a “new restart grant” that would help businesses reopen; because non-essential retailers were due to reopen first, they would receive grants of up to £6,000 per premises. Other elements included a new Recovery Loan Scheme, an increase in the national minimum wage to £8.91 an hour, and a new Help to Grow scheme that small retailers can apply for. There is also an increase in the corporation tax from 19%to 25%in 2023. This would only affect retailers that have profits of £50,000 or more, and the tax rate would taper from that level upwards. Sunak said only businesses with profits of £250,000 or greater would be taxed at the full 25% rate.

Business rates thus remain a major issue and we continue to put pressure on the Treasury. The final report of the government’s fundamental review of business rates will not be published now until the Autumn, so we are very keen to see the interim report, which will include a summary of responses to the call for evidence which will be now be published on 23 March, along with a number of tax documents, consultations and calls for evidences on a wide-range of tax-related issues. Our initial response to the House of Commons Select Committee is here and our response to the Treasury is here. We continue to believe that business rates are no longer fit for purpose, that merely bringing in a sales or online tax is not a long-term strategic solution and that there needs to be a portfolio approach to all the tax that every business pays. I know that many BIDs were involved in the responses to the Treasury and continue with the pressure. There are many groups involved in the this pressure and we are supporting our REVO colleagues, who are running a campaign to support shopkeepers across the country; do join here if you want to do more.

One excellent outcome of the budget was the confirmation of more than £1 billion for the second tranche of the Towns Fund; the 45 towns receiving money were dominated by the north west, Yorkshire and the Midlands, and of the places confirmed so far it is gratifying that 22 already have BIDs, and a further four are developing them. The full details are here, and this is another major milestone in some of our town centres. The Towns Fund website has some great stories about projects that are interesting and inspiring.

One major part of the ‘new normal’, which will affect BIDs up and down the country, will be the return to the office, or the numbers of people who prefer working from home. This will be a big key part of our BID agenda. Much is already being written about this, with major blue chip companies already asking their staff to work from home on a few days a week (info here) and others bringing ‘hybrid working’ into operation. BIDs are affected both ways by this; some will gain from the growth of homeworkers in their area, others will lose the daily movement of much of their workforce. Many BIDs are starting to map these changes and the new Towns Fund is allowing some of our towns and cities to bring together models of new working with kindness economies, 15-minute economies, digital economies and new transport and innovation models to the fore.

We are using the Insight Online session next week (March 23rd, 14:30 - 15:30) to look at some of these issues with Sharon Appleby, Head of Business Operations at Sunderland BID, and Tom Whittington, Director of Retail and Leisure Research at Savills. Tom has led research on creating genuine mixed-use spaces that serve better social value, while still fulfilling the financial expectations of investors and other key stakeholders. His ‘Reimagining Retail#2: Sustainable Repurposing’, a collaboration from across the industry, is the go-to manual on all things repurposing and believes that the repurposing journey starts with retail, but it ends with better resilient town centres and consumer hubs. To join please sign up here https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZwvf--grDIvGNxoUDzqa1995Reyq33klWj-

The London BIDs summit last month was full of information and data on how the 69 BIDs in London have been dealing with the issues of support during the lockdown and pandemic. The Zoom recording is available and is well worth a look and you can find it here.

Data continues to be vital for all of us and data from the Task Force Professional Research and Data Group is generated to inform practice and policy for high streets across England, it is important that we are aware of it and use it. This February 2021 insight report includes details on high street footfall, business impacts, and social media sentiment data. It is available both as a PDF and video recording.

There is growing concern from some over trolling; this is recognised as deliberately inflicting hatred, bigotry, racism, misogyny, or just simple bickering between others, who use any environment where they are allowed to make public comments. Unfortunately, trolling is a phenomenon that has swept across websites in recent years. Supporters argue it's about humour or freedom of speech. However, for some the ferocity and personal nature of the abuse causes great distress. Experts say the key is not to "feed the troll" by offering them a response and there is a useful link here.

On a more cheerful note, the first cohorts this year of our Certificate in BID Management (CiBM) and Diploma in BID Leadership (DiBL) course are now forging ahead, but we are starting to recruit for the second cohorts later on in the year; further details are available from Evan, so please get in touch with him to find out more.


Professor Christopher Turner, Chief Executive, British BIDs

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