Taking a trip to the High Street is a key part of our way of life. Assuming high streets will be available to us and they will continue to develop organically without too much help has been taken for granted for far too long. The High Street is a community of businesses and there is a new and successful model which gives those businesses the opportunity to take control and drive forward change.
What is a Business Improvement District or BID?
Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) legislation was introduced in 2004 and this allows businesses in a defined geographical area to pool their resources to deliver projects and services which they believe will make a difference to their trading environment and in turn the profitability of their business. It is a mechanism which recognises that the public realm is the trading environment. If that environment is not right, however, good an individual business offer is, customers will go elsewhere. Businesses trade in the environment and they know what the issues are. The BIDs job is to identify projects and services which would address these issues and deliver them on behalf of the businesses.
Towns, retailers, businesses and councils working in partnership
Working in partnership is not a new idea; it has long been recognised as the best way forward. Working in partnership with key stakeholders has worked particularly well in the development of place management in towns and city centres and there are many examples of partnerships across theUKdelivering projects and services that are ensuring cleaner, safer and more welcoming places.
However there are substantial challenges for those wishing to establish and sustain a long term partnership. Many struggle to retain the interest and support of stakeholders. With limited sustainable funding plans are often seen as wish lists and meetings at best as networking opportunities and at worst as “talking shops”. In addition to these challenges many partnerships fail to engage the wider business community who are essential to successful place management in our towns and city centres.
The BID Regulations provide a mechanism for genuine partnerships involving all local business. BID Partnerships provide businesses with the opportunity to develop, fund and manage projects and services which make a tangible difference to their business and the trading environment. Businesses decide what needs to be done, how it will be managed and ultimately whether or not a BID will come into force.
Over 100 BIDs in less than 10 years, and plenty of success to celebrate!
In less than a decade this unique approach has already led to the establishment of over 100 BID partnerships. To secure BID status the local business community has to vote in favour of the establishment of a BID which ensures that every business is engaged in the process. These 100 or so partnerships represent around 50,000 businesses. On average 74% of businesses voted in favour of paying an additional levy and, between them, they have contributed £250m towards projects and services in their locations. The BID model was highlighted in the recent Portas High Street Review as a successful model which could be developed further.
BIDs last for a maximum of 5 years and can deliver any project or service which the local business community are willing to fund, provided that it is additional to any statutory services provided by public agencies. A BID partnership will consult with local businesses to identify a shopping list of potential projects. This list is then honed down to 4 or 5 areas in which the partnership can develop projects and services that will make a tangible difference to the trading environment. The projects are detailed in a BID Business Plan. The plan must include financial information, governance arrangements and details on how the projects impact will be measured. The Business Plan is then put to local businesses who vote on whether or not it is to be implemented. If the vote is in favour of the BID Business Plan BID status is achieved and all businesses are required to pay the BID levy.
What do BIDs typically help local business communities achieve?
The key areas that businesses have been willing to fund to date are safety and security; cleaning and the environment; marketing and promotion; public space: business support and collective buying. Many BIDs have had a significant impact in the locations they support. The success of BIDs is reflected in the rapid growth in the number of BIDs and the level of business support for BID renewals. When a BID reaches the end of its 5 year plan, the partnership is required to develop a new Business Plan which is put to the local businesses who vote on whether or not they wish the BID to continue for a further 5 years. To date there have been 48 renewal proposals put to businesses for a second term and 44 have received a mandate from their local businesses to continue.
Examples of BID successes – Lincoln Business Improvement Group
There are 100s of examples of successful BID projects with a wide range of activities including events, advertising, street rangers, radiolink schemes and waste removal. The key is in the name Business Improvement, if the project does not improve things for the businesses then it doesn’t go ahead.
Lincoln Business Improvement Group was one of the first BIDs voted for by local businesses in 2005 and again in 2009. It invests over £1million annually in improving people’s experience of the city centre. More than half the funding each year comes from additional sources including income generation, grants and sponsorship. The BID organises over 200 days of events and entertainment each year. The BID has recently installed a City Centre Wireless Network and worked with independent retailers to secure a£1.8 million streetscape improvement in Lincolns Cathedral Quarter.
The success is not just limited to larger places. For example Great Yarmouth first voted in by local businesses in 2006 and again in 2011. Businesses wanted levels of crime and perception of safety to be addressed. Retail crime, anti social behaviour and criminal damage were all big issues. Businesses now know if they call for assistance a warden will be there. The warden will stand next to them while they tell someone to leave their premises or arrest them. Stock loss for the area is now below the average for the region and in some cases the lowest of all the stores in the organisation.
For more information visit our website www.ukbids.org
Written by Jacquie Reilly, BIDs Director, National BIDs Advisory Service from ATCM
Jacquie is a specialist in partnership and Business Improvement District (BID) development. Jacquie played a leading role in the introduction of BIDs to the UK. She developed and delivered the National BID Pilot working directly with Government on the development of the BID legislation. She heads up the National BIDs Advisory Service on behalf of the ATCM and is leading on the ATCMs work to support the evolution of BIDs. Jacquie has written a number of publications and articles on BIDs and Town Centre Management. These include the Good Practice Guide to BIDs which accompanies the English and Welsh legislation and the 10 Key Steps to Effective Partnership Development which forms the basis for the ATCM partnership development and review processes. Jacquie has developed a number of seminars, workshops and programmes for partnership and BID development including the BID Academy model. She is an international speaker on BIDs and has a Masters in Business Administration.