Memorandum by the British Retail Consortium
The BRC welcome the Inquiry by the Transport,
Local Government and the Regions Committee into the Draft Local
Government Bill. Our evidence deals solely with the draft proposals
for the introduction of Business Improvement Districts in the
A vibrant retail sector is key to the revitalisation
and renewal of urban and rural communities across Britain. Our
members provide a vital community service, a focus for physical
regeneration, and sustained investment in people and places through
more than 321,000 retail outlets. As such the retail sector have
a crucial role in improving and managing the urban environment.
This is a far bigger issue than shopping alone. High streets and
other shopping locations are a key opportunity for people to gather,
to exchange views, to mix with those from other backgrounds, to
experience art and culture, and to enjoy their leisure time. As
such an attractive urban environment is an important component
of local democracy and social inclusion. We welcome the draft
Bill's proposals on BIDs as providing a key tool for delivering
an attractive urban environment. We believe the Government is
right to use legislation to slay out the broad framework while
leaving the fine detail to be addressed through guidance, being
developed jointly by the BRC and a range of other groups.
The BRC believes that, it implemented successfully
BIDs could serve a wide variety of purposes for retailers and
the community at large.
What could be the benefits from BIDs? Commercial
Benefits: For retailers the key benefit from successful BIDs would
be improvements to the bottom line through higher footfall and
sales. The drivers for this commercial change will vary from location
to location but several key priorities are clear:
Security: A key problem in maintaining
anti-crime measures has been the inability to generate sustainable
funding. We view BIDs as a key tool for tackling retail crime
and crime more generally. The BRC views BIDs as an excellent opportunity
for local businesses, in partnership with the police and other
stakeholders, to invest in local anti-crime initiatives. Street
wardens, CCTV, new and improved street-lighting, and measures
to tackle graffiti and vandalism should all be the initial focus
of the first wave of UK Business Improvement Districts. Clean
and safe streets and neighbourhoods are in everyone's interests.
Cleanliness & environment: A second
element of improving the public realm and the retail offer is
the standard of cleanliness and the quality of the environment.
In our view BIDs should, once baseline service delivery has been
agreed with a local authority, aim to improve cleanliness as a
top priority. Investments in the physical environment (including
flower-baskets, litter bins etc) may also be important, depending
on the location.
Regeneration: Given effective public
sector support BIDs could bring much-needed regeneration into
areas currently suffering from stagnation and decline.
Local Government: For retailers another
benefit of a successful BID could be the opportunity to have effective
dialogue with local government across a range of issues. BIDs
could improve the relationship between businesses and local government,
by creating feelings of trust and shared aims and objectives.
A number of key issues need to be addressed:
Additionality: To gain the support of
retailers BIDs must bring additional resources and identifiable
improvements. We are glad that the draft Bill states that BID
income must be directed towards new and additional activity as
opposed to existing services already provided to businesses from
Business should play a key role: The
objectives and expertise of the private sector should be harnessed,
through a BID, towards the public realm. In more deprived areas
this will be more challenging due to the likelihood that the private
sector will be much smaller size. It also poses a challenge for
local government to work in partnership with local businesses.
The role of property owners: Property
owners have a key long-term interest in urban managementwhether
through a BID or the continuation of an existing voluntary scheme.
The benefits of a successful schemehigher land and property
values leading to higher rentswill be felt most keenly
by the owners of property not those who occupy. Indeed landowners
have been involved in a large number of voluntary BID-style arrangements
to date. Their involvement in schemes under this legislation should
be more clearly encouraged. Our preffered option would be that
the business plan proposal, on which rate payers are asked to
vote, should in most circumstances, aim to include commitments
from property owners and the public sector. The draft Bill does
allow this and provides for wider flexibility on how BID revenue
is raised. Retailers would like the Government to raise awareness
of this and highlight the benefits to property owners and landlords
of getting involved.
Protection from poor proposals: For
BIDs to succeed they must gain in depth support from the local
business community. We are glad the dual voting mechanism (by
rateable value and by individual ratepayer) has been incorporated
in legislation. This should prevent smaller ratepayers from being
outvoted by rateable value and larger ratepayers from being outvoted
by individual heriditament. We welcome the commitment in the White
Paper that there will also be a requirement for a petition of
5-10 per cent of ratepayers before a vote can be called. This
will protect retailers from poor proposals and local authorities
from co-ordinating poorly supported ballots. We also strongly
endorse the idea of some kind of turnout threshold that must be
met for the vote to be carried forward into implementation.
Defining the geographical area: Both
the aims and the physical extent of the BID must be well defined.
It is likely that tightly focussed BIDs will be able to achieve
greater buy-in from the local business community.
Cocktails of funding: BIDs
will be able to achieve more if they successfully combine business
and public sector funding. A "joined up" approach should
aim to tap into regeneration funding, security and crime funding,
health funding and a variety of other governmental and non-governmental
sources. To build momentum behind the BIDs initiative the Government
should ensure that different funding schemes are available to
BID proposals and that different departments co-ordinate their
activities to improve and manage in the public realm.
Other partnerships may be more appropriate: BIDs
are just one form of partnership. Other successful mechanisms,
such as community projects organised by individual or small groups
of employers, should not be displaced or jeopardised. And BIDs
will not always be appropriate or feasible, eg in very deprived
areas with a weak business presence.