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Business Improvement Districts

A Business Improvement District (BID) is a business led and business funded scheme to improve a defined commercial area, such as a town centre or industrial estate through additional services or new initiatives.

Watch the short video below to find out more about Business Improvement Districts:

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Government legislation enabling the formation of BIDs, was introduced into England and Wales in 2003, empowering businesses to ‘raise funds locally to be spent locally’ on improving their trading environment.

BIDs are funded through a nominal levy calculated on the rateable value of all businesses within a defined area. Although the percentage can be set higher or lower, most BIDs apply 1% or 2% levies and exempt very small ratepayers.

Whilst the majority of income comes from the private sector, non-domestic rate-payers from the public and voluntary sector also contributes towards the BID.

This levy income can be used to get more funding; for example from public sector agencies, grant bodies, sponsorship, landowners and trading income during the 5 year scheme, maximising the potential funding stream and the benefits that the BID can achieve.

The process of developing a BID involves extensive consultation with businesses to establish what improvements they want and may be prepared to pay for. A BID Proposal is then produced and a 28 day postal ballot held where businesses vote ‘for’ or ‘against’ the proposed programme.

For the BID to go ahead, two conditions must be met; firstly, a majority of those voting have to vote ‘yes’ and secondly those ‘yes’ votes have to represent more than 50% of the total rateable value of all votes cast. There is no minimum turnout threshold. If these conditions are fulfilled, payment of the levy becomes mandatory for all businesses regardless of how they voted. So, a BID will only be established if the majority of businesses, by number and rateable value, want it.

BIDs are viewed by many businesses as a fair and affordable way of creating a ring fenced fund for up to 5 years that is ‘managed by business for business.’

There are now 205 approved UK BIDs of which Cornwall has 8 - Truro, Falmouth, Newquay, Camborne, St Austell, Newham Industrial Estate, St Ives and Penzance.

Cornwall Council bills and collects the BID levies on behalf of the BID companies.

Town centre BIDs have all focused on increasing footfall and generating additional consumer spend, something that has been particularly relevant to businesses in the recent economic climate.  Across the UK and particularly here in Cornwall, there is clear evidence of the success of BID schemes which have led to increased footfall, higher spending, cleaner, safer and more vibrant towns.