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That Was The Bb Week That Was #1 (w/c 23rd March)


Weekly COVID-19 Communications Roundup
W/C 23rd March 2020

From now on, through until the end of the COVID-19 crisis, British BIDs (Bb) will be bringing you a simplified review of the week’s BID news available in one, digestible, broadcast. So, this first edition reviews the week commencing 23rd March 2020, a date that seems now like it might have been a hundred years ago….

On Monday 23rd, Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, announced the biggest lock-down in England since Wartime. Other parts of the UK followed. All but the most essential customer-facing businesses were asked to close, and employees asked, wherever possible, to work from home. Within days, the nations’ town and city centres were largely deserted and citizens were restricted from going outside for all but essential trips and daily exercise.

The effect was profound, and the government acted with a range of business support measures, including an exemption for all retail, leisure and hospitality operators (expanded to include others such as bingo halls and estate agents) from business rates for a year. Bb immediately picked up that there was no such agreed exemption from BID levy and that BIDs up and down the country would face financial uncertainty. Calling upon support from other organisations, Bb launched a huge survey of BIDs to calculate the revenue at risk to BIDs and to formalise an emergency request for support on behalf of the industry. 

Meanwhile, government included a second request from Bb in its Coronavirus Act, which received Royal Assent later in the week. This gives an option to any returning officer who currently has a BID in ballot, and who may feel that current circumstances are affecting participation, to suspend the process. BIDs can rely upon a further relaxation meaning that any BID whose term ends prior to 31st December 2020 receives an automatic extension of its term to 31st March 2021. This reduces the pressure on BIDs nearing the end of their term and needing to, otherwise, hold ballots during the period of maximum disruption.

There were some optimistic signs, however. Heart of London and West Bromwich BIDs, for example, both achieved highly successful renewal results last week. These indicate that businesses remain supportive of BIDs despite the present circumstances and see them as a crucial part of the recovery stage when it happens.

One word that entered everyday parlance was ‘furloughing’. It is not related to agriculture, but rather to the government’s coronavirus job retention scheme. In simple terms, anyone on the payroll as at 28th February 2020 (including Directors) and who is not required in the period to do their job can be asked not work (they do need to agree!) and up to 80% of their employment costs can be reclaimed up to a maximum of £2,500. The scheme will last for 13 weeks.

If ever there was a demonstration of the unique ability of BIDs to rapidly change delivery to suit business need, it was the last week. We saw Street Rangers becoming the eyes and ears over vacant premises, websites turned into virtual town centres, communications increasing ten-fold to keep up with announcements, surveys completed to persuade government to step in with a BID grant, and information made available to reinforce the social distancing rules whilst promoting the business community. And we saw levy-paying businesses adapt to new ways of working also with pubs promoting home deliveries and restaurants promoting their recipes on-line to be cooked at home. Given that no one had ever had to do this before, the progress made in such a short period of time was truly remarkable. 

The BID community, like many others, adapted to new ways of working. At British BIDs we introduced new Q&A video conferencing sessions in which ‘experts’ (term used loosely!) guided BIDs through their first week priorities. The next week sees further sessions on the two hot topics of furloughing employees and how to do a cashflow forecast. We also filmed and recorded the first in a series of podcasts, both of which will be released this week and will be available via iTunes and Spotify. In addition, the Bb team has taken hundreds of calls and answered many more emails from BIDs with more specific queries. We will remain here to help everyone throughout.

It is very easy to view these as dark days and many within the BID community will be directly affected by COVID-19, whilst others will be worrying about their uncertain future. Yet, at the same time, there is a great deal to feel positive about and to be inspired by. Not least, the extraordinary sense of community spirit that has been awakened within our own sector and more widely beyond. A week ago, many of us didn’t know who our neighbours were and yet, on Thursday night, we stood alongside them on our doorsteps to applaud the NHS. Whilst we may normally be tempted towards large supermarkets, we have found that our own, independently run, corner shop is better able to meet our daily needs. As Britain emerges from COVID-19 – and it will emerge, it is just a matter of when – things won’t just return to normal; the places that BIDs manage and the communities for whom we manage them will matter more than they ever have before.

Keep safe and please do contact us about anything that may be concerning you:  

Email: contact@britishbids.info

Tel: 0845 112 0118


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