I admit that I was puzzled when I heard about this, so where else to look it up but Wikipedia!
A BUSINESS IMPROVEMENT DISTRICT (BID) is a defined area within which businesses are required to pay an additional tax (or levy) in order to fund projects within the district’s boundaries. The BID is often funded primarily through the levy but can also draw on other public and private funding streams.
For information the idea originated in Manhattan and now there are nearly 300 in the UK alone. However, there is a very interesting article in The Independent from 2014, giving another point of view. Feel free to make your own comments at the bottom of this page.
This idea has been discussed with around a hundred businesses in the Borough, and the Council has put £5000 towards the development of a BID.
The aim is to increase the diversity of shops in the area. As you probably know, several have closed recently, with Mr Simms Sweet Shop the latest possibility, though as Gareth Bowden, the president of Christchurch Chamber of Trade, has said, the number of empty units has remained pretty stable over recent years. To quote him:
‘There is possibly not enough diversity in the shops. That is what we need to look at and how the council can attract some of the bigger players to add to the retail mix. Business rates and rents are high in the town, which does make it more challenging.’
Southbourne has had the Bournemouth Coastal BID for some time, and it is scheduled to run for at least another three years. In another of their informal surveys The Christchurch Times today (27 September) found that five out of the nine were in favour of it, with only one definitely against. Here are excerpts from four of the comments:
- Southbourne has done one and it is vibrant
- I think BIDs work very well in other towns
- I think it would be good because BIDs do normally work well
- I think it would be a good thing
There was only one comment absolutely against:
- It is another charge and I don’t think it offers any real support that I need.
Here is an article in The Echo, with interesting comments.
Here is another article in The Echo. In summary, The Porterhouse Pub in Westbourne have been summoned to appear in court for refusing to pay this charge. The landladies and Cllr Nick Rose have said that there are not enough benefits to the town to justify the charge.
The man in charge of the BID, Stefan Krause, has justified it in in several ways. There are too many to list here, read the article for full details. Here is an example:
… The area had taken part in the Jazz By the Sea festival, had winter plants and flowers, and spring flowers; had enjoyed Westbourne Book Binge, the Westbourne Tea Party and street decorations for the Queen’s Jubilee. The BID had worked with businesses to tackle begging and antisocial behaviour and to lobby the council and police.
To conclude, Cllr Phil Stanley-Watts said of Boscombe West:
I think the BID is very positive for high streets which are in need of investment when it’s difficult for councils. Councils, in partnership with the BID, are trying to enable high streets to thrive in difficult economic environments and they’re putting in a lot of different events and trying to invest a lot more.