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Council leader demands Westside BID backers show ‘proper governance arrangements’ are in place

Council leader demands Westside BID backers show ‘proper governance arrangements’ are in place

🕔18.May 2015

Promoters of Birmingham’s Westside Business Improvement District must show that “proper governance” arrangements are in place before receiving financial backing from the city council, reports Paul Dale from today’s Cabinet meeting.

Council leader Sir Albert Bore announced that a senior local authority officer will look at the set-up of the new organisation, which is due to take over from the Broad Street BID in August.

Sir Albert confirmed that the council’s deputy chief executive Paul Dransfield is to speak to the prospective chair of Westside “to ensure that when the new BID that comes forward proper governance and relationships are established”.

The council leader made his views clear at a cabinet meeting where problems surrounding the creation of the new BID sparked some sharp exchanges.

The cabinet agreed to a four-month rescue package at a maximum cost of £155,000 to keep services provided by the Broad Street BID going and its management in place until a ballot among businesses can be held to secure approval for the Westside BID to get off the ground.

But Sir Albert said the payment would be subject to chief legal officer David Tatlow being “satisfied that the council is legally able to meet the costs and the balances held by the BID are treated in accordance with the law”.

The total cost to the council of supporting the Westside BID over five years, including paying Service Birmingham to collect a tax levy from businesses, is £531,000. In return, the new BID is expected to raise at least £3.7 million of public sector investment by 2020.

Chamberlain Files revealed last week how the Broad Street BID’s second five-year term lapsed at the end of March. A ballot for Westside was supposed to have been held earlier in the year, but protracted negotiations with the council and other BIDs about the area to be covered by Westside meant that the vote will not be held until next month.

It has been agreed that Westside will cover the old Broad Street BID area including Centenary Square and Brindleyplace as well as land around Brindley Drive, land to the south-east of Holliday Street and a site to the west of Five Ways. It will not include the Paradise regeneration area.

Conservative and Liberal Democrat councillors are demanding to know why details about the Broad Street BID’s failure to organise a ballot for Westside has only recently emerged.

Tory group leader Cllr Robert Alden said: “The BID must have been aware they weren’t going to be able to hold a ballot by March 31. They did not tell the council that they weren’t going to get it done in time or come forward asking for the money when the BID was still operational. We ought to be asking some very serious questions.

“This is something that scrutiny needs to be looking into. There is a serious issue here with the BID effectively asking the council to bail it out because it has failed to ballot in time.

Liberal Democrat group leader Paul Tilsley complained about “a certain cavalier attitude towards governance of the current BID”, and added: “Before we start to throw good money after bad we should have an audit report over the past five years to clear the air.”

Labour councillor Victoria Quinn said she was “appalled” that the council had to bail out the Broad Street BID and described the difficulties facing the cabinet as “absolutely ludicrous”.

The decision to cover the Westside BID levy collection costs in full for five years may turn out to be controversial since the council is reviewing whether given the severity of its own financial position it should look to pass collection costs on to individual BIDs.

Sir Albert said he was not yet in a position to make a decision about ending or altering the free levy collection service, but there were concerns that pro-rata costs for smaller suburban BIDs were significantly higher than for the large city centre BIDs.

He added: “At some point in time, and it needs to be sooner rather than later because we need to get this uncertainty out of the way, there has to be a decision taken by the cabinet as to the future policy in relation to levy collection charges.”

It was a “misunderstanding” to say that the council was subsidising the Westside BID. “We are subsidising every BID in the city,” he added.

He confirmed that any decision to end the free levy collection service would only kick in “when the next BID is up for renewal”.

Broad Street BD manager Mike Olley said he could “absolutely” give assurances to the council about the governance arrangements for the Westside BID.

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