November's BID Insight from Chris Turner


This has been a busy month for ballots, with 16 results since my last insight! Congratulations to Stratford (East London), Lincoln, Exeter, Leeds, Worcester, Bracknell, Solihull, Luton, Hereford, Mansfield, Wolverhampton, Paisley First, and Bedford. Chippenham was unsuccessful. Crawley and Port Talbot are both a new BID.

At the National BIDs Conference earlier this month we had a very useful discussion on the role of the national levy payers and the impact of the growth in BID numbers on both their budgets and their workloads. The levy amounts across the country for some of the major players is now in excess of £1 million, and, with approximately 70 ballots a year, the workloads are increasing. Some are setting up well-organised systems for dealing with them. A key part of that system for many of the national stake holders is both British BIDs Accreditation and the British BIDs National Criteria, which are available here. We will be working on the 2020 National BID Criteria ready for launch in the New Year. Of course, we continue to provide our head office levy payer service and for more details do please email mel.richardson@britishbids.info.
 
The National BIDs Advisory Board met ahead the conference and was pleased to confirm Accreditation for the BIDs in Hammersmith, Bristol Broadmead, South Bank, North Notts and Worcester. The Accreditation process is always welcomed by our national levy payers and we now have 19 Accredited BIDs, with a further 15 at various stages in the process. Again, get in touch with mel.richardson@britishbids.info for more information.
 
The National BIDs Advisory Board is the group that brings together on a regular basis the different BID communities. It considers such matters that the various members of the BID community feel need discussing but will consider inter alia the Government Loan fund, the National BID Survey, the National BID Awards, the National BID Criteria, and Accreditation. We have some 16 members, representing BIDs, the national levy payers, and further information is here. If you have an interest in joining us, please do get in touch.
 
In an important and key strategic move the Government has confirmed its support for BIDs on the vexed issues of turnout and public sector support in ballots. Jake Berry confirmed, in a written Parliamentary response last month, that the Government is committed to supporting BIDs, as they have been a key tool in providing business-led improvements to local areas since 2004, and they remain an important part of our high streets and town centre agenda. The Government makes clear that it does not have any specific proposals for amending the Local Government Act 2003 and the Business Improvements Districts (England) Regulations 2004 with respect to Business Improvement Districts at the present time, including any plans to prevent Local Authorities from voting in BID ballots or introduce a statutory minimum ballot turnout. The Government keeps the statutory framework for BIDs under constant review. The full details are here.
 
Supporting this decision, it was useful to report at the conference in Cambridge that turnouts are very reasonable, with a mean of 45% and the upper quartile at 56%. The highest turnout was 88%. The latest BIDs in the British Isles 2019 survey is available here.
 
Business rates remain a vital part of BID discussions with levy payers. The Treasury Committee Report on Business Rates, to which we gave both written and oral evidence has now been published. The Committee says that it is clear that change is needed to the current business rates system. They believe that none of the alternative systems presented to their inquiry have demonstrated that they are a clearly superior alternative. However, they believe that it should not be up to external stakeholders to develop and evaluate detailed proposals. Their report stresses that given the changing nature of the economy, and with high streets on the decline, the Government needs to be curious, proactive and creative in exploring alternative options to such an important source of Government revenue. They recommend that the Government prepares a consultation in time for the next Spring Statement to identify potential alternatives to the current system of business rates and form the basis for a subsequent detailed evaluation of viable options. (Paragraph 199). Clearly, we at British BIDs will continue to monitor and press on these issues and keep our members fully up to date.
 
Interestingly, as part of the current election campaign, all three of the major parties led on business rates as part of their campaigns. The Conservatives pledged to reduce business rates for small firms in order to help “left-behind” towns if they win the general election. The plans would offer support to retailers as well as making it easier for local groups to buy community buildings such as post offices. The Liberal party vowed to remove them completely, and the Labour Party presented plans to reform business rates. More information is available here.
 
Finally, the Towns Fund prospectus has been published and is available here. This adds a further 100 towns to the existing 100 Future High Streets funding and gives those towns eligible for support of £3.6 billion. The Towns Fund include places with proud industrial and economic heritage, but which have not always benefitted from economic growth in the same way as more prosperous areas. The key message for BIDs is that there are now 200 towns across England receiving extra funding, and it is for BIDs to make sure that they are fully involved. Exciting times indeed!

 

Professor Christopher Turner, Chief Executive, British BIDs

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