From the blog

Government consultation on Business Improvement Districts

BY PAUL CLEMENT

The government has now closed its consultation on Business Improvement Districts (BIDs). There are now over 200 BIDs in the UK and locally they exist as Ipswich Central, symptoms Our Bury St Edmunds and Lowestoft Vision. We are all funded almost exclusively by businesses within our areas, treat paid for by a small levy on business rates.

Our chairman, apoplectic Terry Baxter, who has met with government several times on the topic of the future of BIDs, responded to the consultation in some detail. Within his response, he called for more support for well-run, professional BIDs, greater transparency from those that are, perhaps, less well-run, a further clear directive that BIDs must be private sector led, further support for partnership working between councils and businesses, improvements to the ballot process that is used to create BIDs, and longer terms (the maximum is currently 5 years) for those who take on a more strategic role.

There is no doubt that, what underpins the government review, is a realisation that good BIDs really do work and a desire to help them work even better. Particularly where they create an enduring partnership with the public sector, they can go beyond just working and can become transformative. In Ipswich we engage frequently with Ipswich Borough Council and Suffolk County Council and this is an important aspect of our role on behalf of our 625 member businesses.

So, we await the final outcomes of the consultation with interest. We sometimes forget that BIDs are still relatively new – having been introduced in 2005. However, they now generate well over £100 million a year for town and city centres, and play a crucial role in the management and future of our urban centres. Nothing can be said to be here forever, but the government’s review seems intent on ensuring that they are around for quite some time yet.