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Westside BID to cost council £531,000, including £155,000 to cover late ballot

Westside BID to cost council £531,000, including £155,000 to cover late ballot

🕔13.May 2015

Birmingham’s first Business Improvement District is to get a £155,000 handout from the city council to keep it going following a delay in running a ballot to set up a new BID.

The Broad Street BID’s second five-year term came to an end on March 31. On April 1, a new organisation called the Westside Business Improvement District was supposed to have begun operating, covering Broad Street and an enlarged surrounding area.

But the timetable to get the new BID off the ground is running late and a crucial ballot asking businesses whether they support the plan will not be held until later this month.

That leaves the council having to subsidise the basic running costs of the Broad Street BID for at least five months at a cost of £155,000 to cover marketing and communication, cleaning and cleansing and management and events coordination.

There is no guarantee that businesses will vote in favour of setting up the Westside BID, in which case the council would be faced with the prospect of running a fresh ballot to resurrect the Broad Street BID, or axing the BID.

It has also been confirmed that the Westside BID, if it gets off the ground, will be protected from the huge spending cuts to other services that the council has to find from its budget.

The council is prepared to pay £531,000 over five years to cover the cost of collecting the annual levy from businesses, pay for a campaign to secure a yes vote at the ballot and keep the Broad Street BID going until Westside comes into operation.

A report to next Monday’s cabinet meeting explains that “given the severity of the council’s financial position” consultation will take place on a new financial model for BID levy collection and set up costs – effectively passing responsibility in future on to businesses.

But Westside will not be subject to the new arrangements and all costs are to be met in full by the council.

The £531,000 payment over five years will anger supporters of the Library of Birmingham, which has cut staff and opening hours after the council cut its budget by £1.3 million. The library is in the Westide BID area.

The decision by the city’s Labour leadership to meet the BID costs in full is likely to spark a row, with backers of unsuccessful council leadership contender John Clancy claiming that subsidising Broad Street and Westside BIDs is another example of favouring investment in the city centre rather than inner city areas and the suburbs of Birmingham.

Broad Street BID manager Mike Olley said the delay in holding a ballot was the result of “protracted” discussions with the council about the boundaries of the new Westside BID.

He accepted that “normal practice” would be for the Westside BID to begin operating the day after the Broad Street BID ceased to exist, but negotiations with the council had taken longer than expected.

He said a six-week postal ballot will get underway before the end of this month and believes the Westside BID will begin operating before August.

Mr Olley said the former Broad Street BID board was operating under the relevant legislation as a BID Proposer Body, lobbying support for the Westside BID He added:

While we are not a BID as such any more, it is very much business as usual.

We are operating on some cash reserves and money that the council is putting in to see us through.

The reality is that the Westside BID will be operating well before the end of August.

In 2005 the Broad Street BID became the first Business Improvement District in Birmingham.

A majority of businesses in a defined area must vote in favour, and all businesses then pay a compulsory annual levy on top of rates. The cash goes towards environmental and security improvements as approved by a board of directors.

The Broad Street BID has delivered projects and initiatives worth well over £2 million, and the Westside BID is forecast to raise at least £3.7 million of private sector investment during its first five-year term.

The Westside BID’s business plan aims to create and promote a “bright, safe and clean environment that supports a diverse and thriving business community and encourages a mix of people to visit the area during the day-time, early evening and night”.

The council’s joint venture company Service Birmingham will collect the Westside BID levy at a cost of £20,285 a year. The one-off cost of setting up the levy is £23,700.

As there are a number of local authority buildings in the Westside BID area, the council will have to pay £48,250 a year in levies.

Chamberlain Files publisher RJF Public Affairs undertook some research consultancy for Broad Street BID in 2014. 

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