May's Insight from Professor Chris Turner


As we move from Spring into early Summer, BIDs are becoming increasingly active. Despite the world appearing to be changing dramatically with high street closures, local elections, administration changes, and Brexit to contend with, there have been a number of great BID ballot results including successes in Milngavie and St Ives. Northwich, Southport and South Bank all go to ballot next month and of course we will bring their results to you. 

We have been tracking the stories on Debenhams and Arcadia on our twitter feed @BritishBIDs and will continue to keep members up to date on emerging high street stories and the potential implications to our industry.

This is a major time for Government policy development and hopefully even some outcomes. The Government has responded to the House of Commons Select Committee High streets and town centres in 2030 review; and although nothing dramatic is in the response, it is good to see that there has been one. It has already been superbly summarised by one BID colleague: “Admittedly I haven't finished reading this document yet but being as it includes the sentence, “the Government does not agree that the burden of business rates falls unfairly', I don't think I should bother!” The document is here.

The response does go on to say that the Government is continuing to progress work on high streets and town centres; they are establishing the High Streets Task Force. They stress that it will be much more than a ‘talking shop’ It will provide on-the-ground support to local places, an online repository of best practice, guidance and data that is available to all. It will also provide training for place leaders and play a coordination role in ensuring that relevant groups involved in high street improvements engage with each other better at both a local and national level. We clearly await the announcement of the group with interest.

Two projects that many are involved with, and which can still be joined are the Great British High Street Awards. After last year’s BID successes with Altrincham, many others will want to join, and the awards will be open soon. And of course, the Independents Day is taking place on July 4th. As many will know, Independents’ Day UK is a campaign that promotes independent retail businesses. Independents account for 65% of the 290,000 retail outlets in the UK and are thus at the heart of both local communities and many BIDs throughout the country.

The Treasury Select Committee is reviewing business rates and is now receiving oral submissions, following the written submissions earlier this year. Our response is available on our website here and it focussed on the horrors of valuation appeals, the unfairness in relation to domestic council taxes that have not been reviewed since 1991 and are thus unfeasibly low, the impact on online businesses, and a possible sales tax replacement for business rates. I am on the panel giving evidence on June 4th and am clearly happy to receive further input from members if you want to email me. 

The major retailers’ responses thus far have been pretty blunt, and MPs have been inundated with submissions from high-profile retailers and business groups suggesting alternatives to the tax. Tesco, which pays about £700m a year in business rates, making it one of the biggest payers of the property-based tax, suggested the Government impose a 2% online sales tax to help pay for a cut in business rates for shops. Sebastian James, the Chief Executive of Boots, added his voice to the calls for reform, warning that the “increasingly fragile ecosystem” of high streets and town centres was being rocked by unprecedented and far reaching change and “the rates regime is accelerating the visible decline of high streets in many parts of the UK, with a knock-on impact of increased job losses, lower national insurance revenues and a reduction in apprenticeships and skills investment. Shops are closing and the resulting impact on local communities goes beyond reduced access to products and services.”

On a very different matter, I have just sent out personal emails to BID Managers for the National BID Survey, which is now in its 13th year. As you probably know the majority of data for the survey comes from the British BIDs database, which we keep up-to-date by way of our weekly Ballot Watch service, and our collection of all the business plans of all the BIDs. All of the data on the BIDs that we have in our system is available online through our BID index. At the moment we have the ballot details and business plans of 317 BIDs who are operational, and a further 30 who are at the development stage. The follow-up qualitative survey, which we ask BIDs to complete over the next two months, will allow us to explore issues such as business crime reduction, levy collection rates, the impact of business rates on BID levy income and the impacts of neighbourhood plans and local economic partnerships. This year we are also interested in BID involvement in the Future High Street Fund. If you haven’t had my email can you let me know please.

This week sees the publication of the UK’s first comprehensive research into the role of private-sector business crime reduction schemes in helping drive down low-level crime and anti-social behaviour. “Business Crime Reduction Schemes: An examination of operation, management and best practice” gathers objective information to show how local schemes 'self-manage' low-level crime and anti-social behaviour to help fill the growing 'policing gap'. The report is available here and identifies seven key indicators for success.

Clearly one major advantage of the British BIDs relationship with the national levy payers is that we now have a database of over 470 national head office voters, with their names and contact details. It is of course these national levy payers that also help us develop our National BID Criteria to ensure that BID managers know how to structure their business plans and their service delivery in a fashion that ensures that the national levy payers will vote for them. Do please get in touch with mel.richardson@britishbids.info if you want to discuss your particular head office voters. 

Our Certificate in BID Management students are now completing their final written extended projects and we look forward to their presentations next month. As ever they are tackling some wide-ranging topics including: BID roles in freight management, crime reduction, CRM systems, and policing. The next cohort – the 10th – starts on June 25th and is almost full. If you want to join the 79 students who have completed the course to date  please email drew.turner@britishbids.info for more details.

Finally, the Bb team and I have been working with BIDs across the country delivering bespoke training with BID boards and teams on board development, new BID development and stakeholder engagement. We are always keen to work with members on such issues and do please email Drew or me if you want some involvement from us. We often find that an external voice is helpful.

Professor Christopher Turner, Chief Executive, British BIDs

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