There are now over 200 business improvement districts (BIDs) in the country. BIDs are democratic, business-led vehicles with an ability to raise a mandatory levy, based on rateable values, to invest in their areas. They focus on issues of importance to local ratepayers, and the levy is paid by ratepayers. Since BID legislation first emerged in 2003, there has been a lobby for a levy to be charged on property owners as well as on the payer of business rates. In many places property owners are able to bring a different perspective on, and longer term funding for, the changes necessary for a place to be successful. After 14 years of waiting the Local Government Finance Bill now brings forward the right for property owners to start their own BIDs. This builds on the experience of three London BIDs who, because of a happy coincidence back in 2009 of the business rate supplement and Crossrail, have been able to bring forward property owner BIDs earlier than anyone else.
The note, prepared by Dentons and the BIDsBusiness, sets out some of the challenges and opportunities that the draft legislation offers. Most importantly it argues that it would be helpful to be able to separate ratepayer and property owner BIDs. In many areas they will overlap but there should be an ability for a property owner BID to come forward without a ratepayer BID. Separately there are issues in relation to BID set up, information requests and governance that need to be settled for both ratepayer and property owner BIDs. The legislation could be used to address those issues.
With some refinement the Bill could genuinely help BID areas and provide a new energy for BIDs, an encouragement of long term vision and significantly deeper pockets to fund change. Let’s hope that the opportunity is seized.