Canterbury Bid


Canterbury Business Improvement District (BID) was re-elected in July 2019 to represent and promote the huge range businesses in Canterbury for a second term (2019-2024) . With a 52.4% turnout (national average 48%)  out of 763 eligible hereditaments, 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 our response to the Covid crisis.


During what is an incredibly challenging time, we would like to re-iterate that Canterbury BID remains 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.

We are dedicated to following through on the projects and activities developed with you during consultation and to adapt these plans to support the Covid 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. Please do not hesitate to contact us directly to find out more about how we can support you.

1. What have you done for BID levy payers since lockdown?

We moved quickly at the beginning of the crisis to protect your BID levy investment and to ensure we could deliver on projects and activities that would benefit you most during this time.

The BID Business Plan outlines the activity promised during this five-year term (2019-2024). We have created this report to explain how your BID levy is calculated and how your levy was invested in 2019-20 as the pandemic unfolded. You can also find out how your levy was invested in 2020-21 in our latest annual report.

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.

Sign up to the BID eNews for weekly updates on activity, support and opportunities.

2: Why isn’t there a BID levy holiday like with Business Rates or a discount?

The BID levy is unlike business rates which are covered in part by national government rates relief measures. BID legislation (BID Regulations Act 2004 and Local Government Act 2003) is clear that we must continue to bill. In line with that legislation and our BID Levy Rules, we are not permitted to discount the levy and the levy bills have to be issued.

3: Did the BID receive government funding?

The BID received a small amount of funding from government designated by the guidelines for operational costs in June, July and August so that we could continue running projects and activities during re-opening. We also made use of the furlough scheme – four members of the BID team were put on furlough between March and May 2020, with partial furlough continuing through October 2020.

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.

2: 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 (RV). 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 BID 1 ballot received a 54% voter turnout, with 64% voting in favour and 61% by rateable value. In 2019, there was a 52.4% turnout (national average 48%) with businesses in the city voting in favour with a  69.42% majority by number and a 74.85% majority by rateable value.

3: 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 can vote.

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.

3c: 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.

3d: 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.

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:

  • Policing
  • Highways maintenance
  • Street lighting
  • Licensing & enforcement
  • Markets
  • Street cleansing
  • Car & coach parking
  • Tourism
  • Museums
  • Community safety & CCTV
  • Transportation

6: How do I know if it’s working?

Each year the BID will produce an annual report to show what the BID is delivering and the Return on Investment for levy payers.

7. 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. Your BID CEO sits on the Board of the Association of Town and City Management, which hosts the All Party Parliamentary Group for Towns and City Centres, so your voice is being heard at a national level too.

8: How many BID areas are there in the UK?

There are now over 320 BIDs established and operating across the British Isles and they are growing at a rate of over 25 a year.  In 2019 71 BID ballots took place (27 of them being new BIDs) and all but 5 were successfully voted through.

9: What will I get back for my money?

An extra £2.9 million over five years will be generated. 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 may 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.

10: 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.

11: 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.”

12: 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.

13: Can I opt out?

No. A positive result in a ballot mean that all eligible businesses over the threshold and within the BID boundary are required by law to pay for a 5 year period.

14: 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 (business rates).

15: 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.

16: 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.

17: 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 the 13 October which is 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.

Canterbury City Council are responsible for issuing the levy bills. If you move in or out of a business property you must let them know immediately as this helps them keep your business rates bill and BID levy bill accurate.

18: Why can’t I pay in instalments, like Business Rates?

A formal instalment plan would significantly increase the cost of collection, impacting the money invested in the city. In addition, the BID levy rules require collection the BID levy in a single annual instalment. 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.

19: 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. To increase voter turnout marketing materials are produced to create awareness of the ballot. Any money spent on a “yes” message comes from voluntary contributions.

20: 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.

21: What has the BID done to provide additional cleaning?

In BID 1 we spent 2,320 hours deep cleaning 13 miles of city streets and introduced a pilot programme to tackle graffiti by funding anti-graffiti paint on grot-spots and by providing graffiti wipes to clean tags on lamp posts, doorways, signs and hoardings across the city.

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.

22: 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 provides free B2C marketing support to Canterbury BID businesses through Facebook and Instagram posts, website listings, weekly eNewsletters, printed and digital maps and seasonal guides. The content provides inspiration to residents and visitors, encouraging them to spend more time and money in the city. MyCanterbury helps customers discover and connect with businesses in Canterbury as well as providing a consistent incentive to visit the city time and time again.

23: 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.