What is a Business Improvement District?

A Business Improvement District – or BID – is a way for local businesses to choose to work together to tackle issues which are too large or widespread for any one business to address. These can be about bringing more people to the area, making the area more welcoming. Ultimately BIDs are about increasing business levels and raising profits. Businesses decide on the package of measures they think their area needs. These are written up into a Business Plan which also sets out the levy percentage and eligibility criteria. Businesses then vote on whether they want the BID to go ahead via a formal ballot, knowing how much it will cost. If the majority vote yes, and they represent at least 50% of the rateable value of those who vote, then a BID can be set up. Under the legislation the levy is mandatory on all the eligible businesses once the BID has been voted through.

Where else have BIDS been developed?

Over 70,000 businesses in 185 towns and cities across the country already benefit from being part of a BID. The nearest BIDs to Bournemouth are in Dorchester, Winchester and Wimborne. Several coastal resorts such as Blackpool, Brighton and Worthing also have successful BIDs, although these are related to day visitors to their town centres, rather than a combination of staying and day visitors.

What can a BID do?

A BID can deliver virtually anything its businesses decide they need, as long as it is over and above what the local authority already provides and the businesses are prepared to pay for it. In Stratford upon Avon the BID promotes and advertises the town, puts on annual events and runs street entertainment, In Rugby, businesses chose to install a state-of-the-art CCTV system (to combat anti-social behaviour), a team of Town Rangers (to make it more welcoming) plus a cleaning ‘Hit Squad’. Other towns have focused on different issues. Brighton’s BID delivers Christmas lights, Dorchester’s focuses upon bringing down the cost of doing business by securing discounts on insurance, recycling and advertising.

Bournemouth’s Coastal BID is unique not only in respect of its focus on attracting and retaining more staying visitors, alongside bringing more local people to our trading districts, but also in terms of the size of the BID area. When voted through it covered the largest continuous area of any UK BID.

Who was involved in developing this BID in Bournemouth?

The Coastal BID initiative was led by a group of local business people. Bournemouth Borough Council supported this by providing a BID co-ordinator, securing expert consultants and providing substantial funding to take the project through to a ballot. All major decisions were led by the private sector representatives on the Steering Group.

The Bournemouth Chamber of Trade and Commerce, Bournemouth Accommodation and Hotel Association and the Bournemouth, Poole and Christchurch branch of the Federation of Small Businesses obtained support through Bournemouth Council’s “Recession Fund” to explore the interest among businesses within the Town Centre and along the Coastal strip to develop two BIDs. Each BID initiative was controlled by its own Steering Group made up of representatives from the businesses in that area. Between May 2011 and February 2012, businesses in the Coastal BID area helped to shape the proposals in the Business Plan.

The extensive consultations included:

A Business Plan was produced from all these consultations. This was posted out in February 2012. In March/April 2012, the Electoral Reform Service carried out an independent ballot, posting voting forms to all eligible (ie potentially levy paying) businesses. The results, declared on 13 April showed that 43% of businesses had voted, with 73% of these voting in favour of establishing a BID The new company was set up in June 2012, eventually moving in to its new office in Burlington House, Burlington Arcade in July 2012.

The Ballot

Before a BID can be created all eligible businesses within the proposed area/business sectors have the opportunity to vote on the Business Plan. The ballot was organised independently (in this case via the Electoral Reform Service) to ensure complete confidentiality). Businesses were posted a simple yes/no voting form. Under national legislation, a BID can only go ahead if at least 50% of those voting say ‘yes’ and they represent at least 50% of the total rateable value of those voting.

How does the BID deliver the projects?

BIDs are run by independent, not-for-profit companies with a board made up of, and elected by, representatives of those businesses involved. The Board is responsible for delivering the Business Plan that was voted through in the BID ballot.

How much does a BID cost?

Core funding for BIDs comes from a small percentage levy of between 1% and 2% on the rateable value of the eligible businesses. The levy for the Coastal BID is set out in the Business Plan (1.5%). It cannot be changed without going through another ballot of all businesses. 61% of businesses will pay less than £1 a day. In terms of the Coastal BID, this levy is fixed for five years and is not subject to an inflationary increases.

Where can I find out what other BIDs have done?

Information on the 185 BIDs across the UK can be found on the National BIDs Advisory website or British BIDs:

Isn’t this just a way for the Council to save money?

Most definitely not! The BID Company is an independent, not-for-profit organisation. It cannot carry out any projects or services that statutorily have to be provided by the public agencies. Any projects must be additional to those services. We have worked with Bournemouth Borough Council to create baseline service agreements to give clarity on what is currently being provided. They include the range and level of tourism services.

Isn’t this what I pay my Business Rates for?

No. Business Rates are a national tax, which although collected by the local Council is passed on to Central Government. Some of your business rates are re-distributed to the Council. Businesses have no control over the way these funds are spent. BIDs, however, have full control over their own funds. The BID levy does not pay for anything covered by your business rates. The funds collected through the BID levy are kept in a bank account, held by the BID company. All the income from the levy, and from extra funds attracted, is used to develop and fund local activities and services agreed by you, through the Business Plan.