Watford BID overcoming the challenges to secure a ‘YES’ vote


We are delighted at the recent news of Watford BID achieving a successful renewal ballot this month and we send our congratulations to the team! Businesses in Watford have noticed the invaluable work that has been actioned by the BID not only over the last five years, but especially since the start of the pandemic. Watford BID have continued to support their businesses enough that they have voted in favour of a second term.

Since Watford BID’s first term in 2016, the British BIDs team have supported the BID and with their renewal we continued that support with regular advice and a review of their business plan.

We recently got in touch with Glen Hempenstall, Marketing and Communications Manager at Watford BID who told us how they achieved a ‘YES’ vote for the BID and what was involved in getting businesses on board.


Glen Hempenstall, Marketing and Communications Manager, Watford BID

Business Plan consultations during the first national lockdown, a Business Plan launch scheduled for November’s national lockdown, and the BID Ballot during 2021’s national lockdown – yet Watford’s businesses still voted ‘YES’ in favour of a second term.

Watford BID are delighted that our businesses have voted overwhelmingly in favour of a second term. The results saw 78% of businesses vote in favour, with 79% by rateable value backing the BID – a turnout of 35% from over 400 businesses is also something not to be sniffed at given the exceptional circumstances.

Maria Manion, our chief executive and British BIDs board member, commented: “It is a vote of confidence for Watford BID but also provides more evidence that there’s a desire for additional support, town centre improvement works and dynamic initiatives even if it comes at a financial cost during an extremely costly economic climate. This all points towards the fact that there is still plenty of demand for Business Improvement Districts in the country.” 

Overcoming the challenges – learnings & advice to BIDs approaching a ballot

Consultation - When forming our business plan in Spring/Summer 2020, it proved very difficult for us to consult businesses during a national lockdown. It’s vital to use every channel possible to give levy payers a chance to have their say, and that includes tapping into your influencers whether it be COVID marshals, local councillors, or police officers listening to your levy payers.

Ultimately you do have to rely on your learnings throughout the past five years – which projects proved to be most popular? What post event feedback was most positive? Sometimes no news is good news – if something you implemented was unpopular with levy payers then you would have heard about it!

 

Local Authority - Talk to whoever is running the ballot early on and discuss the challenges that will be coming their way and how they plan to overcome them. To ensure a decent turnout, they may need to be more flexible about reissuing replacement ballot papers earlier than the five working days before the end of ballot, or about sending papers to a different address than was originally expected. In life and in ballot life, positive relationships help enormously!

Let the Local Authority’s NNDR team know well in advance that you’ll be requiring regularly updated lists of who the current ratepayer is.  With so many retailers going into administration, it’s important that the correct ratepayer is identified and sent ballot papers. Note that from our experience, we found NNDR teams are currently extremely busy issuing COVID grants – so be wary that your job may not be their top priority.

 

CampaigningUnfortunately, you cannot rely on face-to-face meetings with businesses – in fact, we had none.  Make sure you have a good database of email addresses to reach out to local contacts and that you put as much information online as you can. We still distributed hard copies of business plans and marketing materials because we recognised that a business plan delivered through someone’s door would be more likely to be flicked through than one that is sent as an attachment.

We also used the power of social media during the 28-day ballot period by posting #WatfordBIDrewind content showcasing 28 of our most noticeable projects and campaigns on each day of the ballot. It provides a great opportunity to showcase your achievements in an informal way to your followers and gain positive engagement – levy payers will then see how much the public appreciate your BID.

 

Our overall advice would be to have faith in the principle of BIDs and particularly your BID; remember that there is a reason that your BID secured a yes vote in the beginning. The pandemic has created enormous challenges to surmount, but the overarching message to your levy payers is that we are stronger when we work together.

We cannot wait to see what we can achieve in Watford BID’s second term, and we hope to collaborate with even more successful BIDs in the future!

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