Canterbury Business Improvement District (BID) was been re-elected to represent and promote the huge range businesses in Canterbury for a second term (2019-2024). With a 52.4% turnout (national average 48%), businesses in the city voted for the BID with a 69.42% majority by number and a 74.85% majority by rateable value.
These are the questions that you have asked us about the BID, including questions about billing during COVID-19. We will update this list as you ask more questions.
During what is an incredibly challenging time, we would like to re-iterate that Canterbury BID is 100% committed to supporting your business and our community. We maintained operations during the lockdown period and continue to be at the forefront of the local recovery effort, coordinating a range of campaigns and practical support to build confidence amongst businesses and consumers.
We aim to continue to support the resilience, innovation and duty of care of our levy payers, in the toughest of circumstances. As we move through the COVID-19 crisis and recovery, we are continuing to play a central role in encouraging locals and visitors to enjoy our city in a safe and welcoming way.
Like many businesses, we are considering the best way forward to ensure funds for our continued operation, but to also give consideration to the pressures on our levy payers at this time. We are dedicated to following through on the plans which we have already started delivering during the past three months, to support the COVID-19 recovery.
We would like to hear the concerns of all of our levy payers so that we may help to address them, and to hear of any initiatives you have put in place, so that we can play our part in publicising them to local businesses.
We wish you all the best over the coming weeks and months. Please do not hesitate to contact us directly to find out more about how we can support you. We would love to hear from you.
1. What have you done for BID levy payers since lockdown?
Here is a brief summary of how we have increased our support and work since lockdown. Sign up to the BID eNews for weekly updates on activity, support and opportunities. See also our Operations Reports for a summary of activity.
- Introduced new webinars and training sessions, on a wide range of subjects – from how the financial climate impacts you, to legal guidance, to digital marketing.
- Introduced a new sector-based series where we are gathering businesses together to share knowledge and ensure that your views help shape the road to recovery.
- Vinyled vacant units to help with welcoming and wayfinding. As of today, all of the windows along Guildhall Street and Sun Yard have been covered in bright images that show off the best of what our city has to offer – and there are more to come.
- Managed resources so the BID levy can be invested when it is of most benefit to you – we furloughed three members of the team plus the Ambassadors during lockdown and postponed projects and activities, so they can be reinstated to help with recovery.
- Promoted businesses that were able to stay open during lockdown and now businesses that are reopening. Engagement with our website, emails and social media channels has more than doubled and this is free for all levy payers.
- Funded additional graffiti cleaning to ensure Canterbury remains a beautiful and clean place to visit.
- Joined a select group of BIDs chosen for their good governance to develop new best practise criteria for BIDs as a pilot project through The BID Foundation.
- Through the High Streets Task Force, we were asked to take part in a pilot with social media agency Maybe* to help raise the profile of Canterbury throughout the Eat Out to Help Out campaign so lots of different initiatives are implemented on a pro-active level to share learning and to showcase our businesses within Canterbury in a positive and high profile fashion.
This activity would not have happened without the BID and has required significant funding. We have achieved this by reprofiling the BID budget and working flexibly to react to an anticipated reduction in commercial income.
2: Why are you sending reminder notices now?
As you may be aware, the BID levy is payable in a single annual instalment. The invoice for the billing year 2019/2020 was sent on 31 October 2019 and just over 80% has been collected to date. Therefore we are now obliged to remind you that payment is still due as BID legislation is clear that we must continue to bill as normal. The BID levy is unlike business rates which are covered in part by national government rates relief measures.
3: What if we have difficulty paying the BID levy?
We understand the difficulty for many to provide payment at this time. If you anticipate any problems with payment of the BID levy, please phone Canterbury City Council, who are responsible for the administration and collection of the BID levy. They are available to help and advise you and are always happy to talk to businesses facing hardship: 01227 862 316 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
4: Did the BID receive government funding?
The BID received a small amount of funding from government in order that we could continue operations following the immediate lockdown period, however this only covers a proportion of our core costs for a limited time.
5: Can you offer a discount on the BID levy this year?
In line with national legislation (BID Regulations Act 2004 and Local Government Act 2003) and our BID Levy Rules, the BID is not permitted to discount the levy without an alteration ballot. In addition, the vast majority of levy payers, including independent traders, have already paid the levy without discount.
BID and Ballot FAQs
1: What is a BID?
‘BID’ stands for ‘Business Improvement District’. It is a defined commercial area where new funding can be raised through a ‘levy’ on all businesses within that area, to invest in initiatives to improve the local trading environment. BIDs enter into baseline agreements with the local authority and other service providers which guarantee the level of service provision in the area. These ensure that any services the BID provides are truly additional.
The first Business Improvement Association was established in Bloor West Village in Toronto in 1970. It came about because of transport infrastructure improvements (a new subway) that took shoppers quickly to other shopping districts. A number of local businesses came together wanting to invest in upgrading their area in order to attract shoppers back into it but were frustrated that not all businesses would join them. They therefore lobbied the City and the Ontario government to introduce a means of raising funds from businesses that all would pay if it was overseen by an elected body. The Ontario Municipal Act allowed this to happen.
UK Town and city centres have been losing shoppers to other locations, mainly out of town, from the 1980s onwards. The initial response was the establishment of an extensive network of Town Centre Management partnerships. Although many of these initiatives were successful, they were limited in the scope of what they could achieve. Looking to North America, it was evident that if a way could be found to introduce BIDs in the UK, this could potentially bring significant increases in the investment available.
The government announced that BIDs would be introduced to the UK in April 2001. The introduction required two pieces of legislation and these were passed in 2003 and 2004 and Kingston First became the first BID in the UK in 2005. Today BIDs in the UK are generating a total annual economic contribution of over £130 million according to the 2017 National BIDs Survey.
2a: How does a BID happen?
A BID can only be formed following consultation and a ballot in which businesses vote on a BID Proposal or business plan for the area. The ballot is run by the local authority or outsourced by the local authority to a third party. All businesses eligible to pay the levy are balloted. For a BID to go ahead the ballot must be won on two counts: straight majority and majority of rateable value. This ensures that the interests of large and small businesses are protected. There is no minimum turnout threshold. The ballot is run independently by the local authority.
In 2014 the BID1 ballot received a 54% voter turnout, with 64% voting in favour and 61% by rateable value. This can be confirmed by Electoral Services.
2b: How does the BID ballot work?
The BID ballot, which is a 28-day postal ballot, is run by Canterbury City Council as the local authority and therefore the “ballot holder”. BID regulations state that:
“14.—(1) As soon as practicable after the day of the ballot, the ballot holder shall make arrangements for counting the votes cast on such of the ballot papers as have been duly returned (in accordance with paragraph 13(1)) and record the number counted. (2) No person other than the ballot holder and his clerks may be present at the counting of the votes, unless permitted by the ballot holder to attend.”
The reason the ballot papers are counted in private is that business and contact names are on the ballot papers, and how a business votes is private.
3a: Am I eligible to vote?
All eligible businesses within the BID boundary with a Rateable Value exceeding £1,700 will be able to vote. And remember the BID can only go ahead if you vote YES.
3b: Who should cast the vote for a business?
The responsibility lies with Canterbury City Council’s ballot holder to decide who to issue the notice of ballot and then the subsequent ballot paper to. It is then up to the recipient to decide whether they have the jurisdiction within their business to cast the vote. In the event that a business feels the ballot paper should be re-issued to another person within the business, a proxy application can be made to the Electoral Services Department of Canterbury City Council. The deadline for application is 5pm on Monday 1 July 2019.
4: Isn’t this what I pay my business rates for?
No. Business rates are collected by Canterbury City Council and redistributed at a national level. The council spends the allocated funding on services that are both statutory and discretionary, and businesses have very little say on what these services are. BIDs differ from this as the money is collected locally, ring-fenced and controlled and managed by you. It can only then be spent on initiatives detailed in business plan that you have agreed to. The BID levy does not pay for anything covered by your business rates.
5: Does this mean that the local authority will stop providing services?
No. We have established a baseline service provision from the local authorities. Baseline statements have been obtained for the following areas:
- Highways maintenance
- Street lighting
- Licensing & enforcement
- Street cleansing
- Car & coach parking
- Community safety & CCTV
6: How do I know if it’s working?
Each year the BID will produce an annual performance report to show what the BID is delivering and the Return on Investment for levy payers.
7: Why should I vote Yes?
Voting YES to a BID in Canterbury will mean that you can expect a better marketed, maintained and managed city; you will be contributing to the £2.9 million invested to improve Canterbury over the next five years. And the BID will only go ahead if it receives more YES votes than no votes, by number and Rateable Value.
8: And if I vote No?
Canterbury will no longer have a BID. Voting no will mean that you are saying no to Christmas lights, hanging baskets, Canterbury in Bloom awards, Purple Flag accreditation, city-wide national promotions for the Summer, Christmas in Canterbury campaign, BID networking, BID footfall reporting, the free MyCanterbury platform and support of the BID Ambassadors. Without this investment we will not be able to push forward with free citywide Wi-fi and the other initiatives, services and events we support. You will lose the opportunity to make a difference to the city.
9. What are the benefits of BIDs?
Long term investment: BIDs allow businesses to influence economic change in their area by raising their own pot of money that is spent on their priorities.
Economic growth: BIDs deliver good value projects through collective procurement, promote economic growth through enhanced footfall and regional presence, establish practical links between private and public sector institutions, and attract additional inward investment.
Competitive advantage: BIDs help to establish a competitive advantage by providing an improved environment for clients and employees and better facilities for businesses.
Additional Funding: BIDs can apply for additional funding through: voluntary contributions from businesses outside the BID area; lottery funding; or grants. During BID1 we were able to raise an additional 20% on top of the levy.
Lobbying: BIDs are representative of local businesses and so they can lobby on their behalf with the local authority and other agencies to effect change. Most recently your BID CEO has been at the Houses of Parliament lobbying for a business rates reform – so your voice is being heard at a national level too.
10: How many BID areas are there in the UK?
There are now over 300 BIDs established and operating across the British Isles and they are growing at a rate of over 25 a year. In the last 12 months 71 BID ballots have been run (27 of them being new BIDs) and all but 5 were successfully voted through.
11: What will I get back for my money?
If you vote ‘yes’ you will create an extra £2.9 million over five years, Canterbury will be better promoted, better presented and more vibrant. This will help to increase footfall, improve sales and make Canterbury a more attractive, safer and better managed city. You could also see savings to your bottom line and a much ‘higher profile’ for the city and therefore your business. A BID will also increase communication between businesses and deliver results. You will be an integral part of the city’s success and an important voice in the process.
You also gain the BID Board representing a broad range of sectors and size of business for the city centre. The Board are an amazing resource who volunteer their time, for free, to ensure your voices and priorities are the focus of BID activities. You can see who they are here: https://www.canterburybid.co.uk/the-board/
12: How long does a BID last?
A BID lasts for five years. If it is successful, another ballot may be held towards the end of this period to decide whether the BID should continue for another five years.
13: Given the difficulties the high street is facing, is this a good time to ask businesses for additional financial contribution?
The alternative is to ‘do nothing’. That means that new businesses or visitors will not come to Canterbury and existing businesses may go elsewhere, seduced by other towns that are making this kind of investment. To quote Rachel Sanders from BoConcept:
“We all know about the challenges of the high street. The situation is complex, but with good leadership, I believe we can not only fill the empty stores but create a vibrant business hub that serves all of our community. The businesses in the centre of Canterbury are interdependent. My success directly impacts my neighbour’s success and that is why I believe that a collaborative approach through BID is essential.”
14: What will the public sector contribute?
The public sector will pay the levy in the same way as other businesses in the BID area. Canterbury City Council own 17 hereditaments in the city centre (at the time of writing this) and will be paying accordingly. Kent County Council own one hereditament in the city centre. Please note, the BID levy in Whitefriars, while owned by Canterbury City Council, is paid by the retailers who occupy the units.
15: Can I opt out?
No. A positive result in the ballot will mean that all eligible businesses over the threshold and within the BID boundary are required by law to pay for a 5 year period.
16: If businesses vote ‘no’, will they still have to pay?
Yes, if a majority vote in favour by number and rateable value, the levy will become mandatory. Payment of the levy carries the same enforcement as non-domestic rates.
17: I’m a small business, will I benefit as much as the larger chains?
The levy is a percentage of rateable value so generally, you will be paying a lot less than the multiples. However, the benefits will be equitable. The projects and activities of the BID are designed to enhance the trading environment across the whole city.
18: How do you ensure the BID investment adds value?
We will enter into baseline agreements with the local authorities and other service providers. These agreements will guarantee the level of service provision in the area and show you what the councils will continue to provide. In this way you can see who does what and be confident that the BID investment is providing added value.
19: What happens if my business closes or moves during the year? Will I get a refund?
The BID Levy is based on a Chargeable Day, in our case 13th October the start of the BID year. What this means is that whoever is liable for the Business Rates on this day each year is also liable for the full BID levy, in a single payment. This means that there are no refunds available for the balance of the year if you move out of the premises for which the levy is liable; the balance of the levy is then a matter for negotiation between you and any incoming tenant or the landlord if at the end of the tenancy.
The presence of a BID levy should arise in pre-transaction searches and questions about whether a given property is included in a BID area, and if so, the amount of levy and related matters are included in standard enquiries which are raised in every commercial property transaction.
20: Why can’t I pay in instalments, like Business Rates?
We are obliged by legislation to use the collection agent used by our local authority, which, in our case, is Civica. It costs £25.50 to collect a levy from each hereditament, a cost that would increase if we collected by instalments. It is the view of the BID Board that this money is better used to invest in the programmes businesses want to see in the city, not on collection charges.
21: How is the BID campaign funded?
Under BID legislation, we are required to produce a send a “Statement of BID Arrangements” (commonly known as the Business Plan) to businesses ahead of the BID ballot in order for businesses to understand what they will be voting on. The Business Plan is based on extensive consultation. Reference to this plan is essential for levy payers to help them decide on how to vote in the ballot. We would like to increase our voter turnout and so we will be developing marketing materials to create awareness of the ballot. In addition, any money spent on a “yes” message will come from voluntary contributions.
22: How are the BID team’s wages allocated?
Canterbury BID is a professional body and operates like many other corporate organisations in the UK with a dedicated team who are in charge of overseeing all projects to ensure that they run smoothly and deliver their objectives, as well as being on time and budget. We have also ensured that this information is open to the public and within the statutory accounts, which are published in full every year with all wages included under “administration”. In the case of Canterbury BID, some projects are delivered in-house and some are outsourced. For the in-house projects, services would have to be outsourced if there weren’t delivered by staff so these costs are allocated to the appropriate project line, with the exception of half of the CEO’s salary and the administration post which is attributed to “management and overheads” as standard practice for BIDs operating in the UK. This has been consistent throughout the five years of the BID and has been published in both business plans (for BID 1 and BID 2) and in the annual statutory accounts. The CEO’s salary, which includes wages and National Insurance, is published annually in the statutory accounts.
23: What has the BID done to provide additional cleaning?
Following a survey conducted with local businesses operating in Canterbury, Canterbury BID completed a new round of deep-street cleaning in early June 2019. Graffiti removal and deep-street cleaning were identified as key areas for improvement by traders in the survey as well as feedback to BID ambassadors who spoke directly to businesses about what they want to implement in the city. The survey was conducted in June 2018 with a 62% preference to lead with graffiti removal followed by deep-street cleaning. Canterbury BID responded to these results with graffiti removal in November 2018 followed by deep-street cleaning in key parts of Canterbury which was planned for June 2019 ahead of the busy summer period in the city. The BID’s graffiti removal in November 2018 meant that four grot-spots in the city were cleaned and painted with anti-graffiti coating which means any re-tagging can be more easily removed with soap and water plus they are continuing to research how they can help more with graffiti cleaning in the future. In March 2019, the Canterbury BID team visited businesses to help them report graffiti, particularly around the Beer Cart Lane area, following a bad spate of graffiti and used anti-graffiti wipes to clean some of the tags on lamp posts, doorways, signs and hoardings across the city. Anti-graffiti wipes are now being handed out, free of charge to BID businesses. The BID commissioned extra deep-street cleaning to take place from Sunday 2 June in Canterbury between the hours of 10pm to 6am, starting with Barrett’s to Costa Coffee (4 nights) Costa Coffee to The Parade (2 nights) and St George’s Street (4 nights). No work was undertaken on Friday or Saturday night and cleaning was carried out at night to minimise any disruption.
Based on feedback and consultation with traders, going forward the BID will commission a regular programme of deep street cleaning and a rapid response cleaning service. The service the BID provides will be in addition to the cleaning provided by Canterbury City Council and will be reviewed when CCC renew their cleaning contract in 2021.
24: What is MyCanterbury and how can I use it?
MyCanterbury promotes all that Canterbury has to offer by sharing up-to-date news, events, discounts and offers, as well as ‘insider knowledge’ about the city. It’s an inspirational online tool which encourages local residents, plus tourists, visitors and students, to spend more time and money in the city. BID levy payers are able to access MyCanterbury for FREE which has a standard fee of £25 per month. Upon signing up, each BID member receives three free credits each month to actively promote information and offers about their brand or business which is a fantastic way to engage with target audiences. MyCanterbury is funded by the BID as it is an unique and engaging forum which helps customers discover and connect with businesses in Canterbury as well as providing a consistent incentive to visit the city time and time again.
25: How are the BID accounts prepared?
The BID’s accounts are independently prepared by Burgess Hodgson and published in full on the BID website. The value of transactions passing through Canterbury BID on an annual basis was not significant enough (£600k against statutory minimum of £10.2 million) for there to be an obligation for the BID to arrange for its accounts to be audited. Therefore, the BID Board Directors decided to not the incur the additional expense a voluntary audit would involve and instead prioritised the budget on direct spend within the city helping local businesses within the BID area.