This Thursday the business owners and managers of Abingdon-on-Thames have a chance to get some real facts about the progress of the Business Improvement District (BID) project. For the past few months businesses have been contributing ideas and suggestions to the BID team to make up the BID proposal. This meeting is to explain how a BID could work, what areas could be involved, and what projects the BID would be likely to undertake. Previous meetings held by both Abingdon Business Alliance and Abingdon Chamber have given their members a chance to discuss this relatively new way of managing town centres which has been tried in 170 other places around the country and members of both organisations are involved in the BID Team.
The BID project is working towards a ballot of all the business rate-payers in the town centre which will take place in October-November over a period of 28 days. The votes are counted both on the basis of simple majority and on the basis of weighting the votes according to the rateable value of the business premises. Only if a Yes vote majority is achieved on both counts can the BID go ahead so it is not an easy ballot to win. The BID can only last for 5 years and then it has to be reballoted again.
The real aim of a BID is to create a single organisation, properly funded, which can act on behalf of an area and the businesses within it, without compromising the business agenda. Each BID sets its own areas of interest according to the what their local businesses tell them. Many BIDs also gain funding, grants and sponsorship to increase their ability to provide good marketing, cost reductions and collaborative purchasing arrangements. The difference between a BID and the present Choose Abingdon Partnership is that the BID would be entirely under the control of the business rate payers rather than council-funded and council-led.
In towns where BIDs have been successful the driving force is usually the independent businesses who are able to use their talents and local knowledge to run the BID Company, using a budget that is mainly made up of contributions from the chain stores. (The funding is generated by a levy based on a percent of rateable value and this therefore means that the large stores with the highest rateable value pay the most.) It tends to be the independents who are best placed to take advantage of the collaborative benefits of the BID so the services are sometimes referred to as “Robin Hood services” because the smaller businesses are basically helped by the larger ones.
Bringing in a BID is not a simple exercise as a procedure has to be followed as set down in the act of parliament of 2003, with a strict timeline and a ballot that must be run by the Local Authority. The only way to do it is to take it step by step and there are many steps still to go in the process. At this stage this is only a consultation to see what kinds of work the businesses might like a BID Company to focus on.
The meeting is at 6.30pm at the Guildhall.