TWELVE months ago Chichester’s Business Improvement District (BID) plan was launched by the City Centre Partnership.
Last week, members of Chichester District Council’s overview and scrutiny committee reviewed its first year’s progress.
Councillors heard how Chichester’s 750 businesses pay one per cent on top of their business rates to cover a levy, used by the City Centre Partnership to fund BID – around £285,000.
Chairman of the partnership Andrew Finnamore said: “It was difficult to ask people to pay more money on top of the business rates they’re already paying.
“But most businesses don’t know where their business rates go and are very quick to complain.
“What we set out to achieve was to demonstrate to them we could be an organisation that could make a difference in a very difficult economic climate.”
Kenrick Garraway, assistant director of economy for Chichester District Council, agreed, saying: “The vast majority supported it, but there will always be those that don’t.”
Work done so far
A year-one report, presented to members, outlined some of the work undertaken by BID in the past year.
Initiatives included running consultations with business owners on pay-as-you-leave car parks and the 20’s Plenty scheme, organising events such as the Chichester Christmas festivities, a nine-day Christmas market and the Chichester garden market, and offering advice to businesses on everything from fake banknotes to lead thefts.
BID has also introduced footfall cameras, which estimate the number of shoppers in the city centre, and can be used to work out which events are bringing people into the city and which are not.
One of this year’s biggest events will be Independents’ Day – to celebrate all the independently-owned shops in the city.
Cllr Elizabeth Hamilton said it was important to promote the events effectively, describing Midhurst’s Independents’ Day last year as a ‘damp squib’.
City centre manager Kim Long said promotion would be key and that lots had already been planned for the day, including marshals guiding visitors around the city and pointing them towards independent shops.
“It’s about shouting about our independents and getting people to come and find them, and making sure people use them in the future,” she said.
A budget for 2013/14, presented to the meeting, showed £5,000 had been set aside to promote and run the Independents’ Day.
Councillors also asked whether the partnership had won over any of the businesses which opposed the initiative when it was introduced a year ago.
“Some of them we have won round, but many we have not,” said Mr Finnamore. “We have to accept people don’t want to pay more than they already do.”
However, he said he still thought it ‘was the most effective mechanism’ for improving the city in ‘a hard economic climate’.
The budget showed nine key areas of expenditure for the City Centre Partnership.
The biggest area of expenditure in 2012/13 was titled ‘Organising City’ and came to £88,089. Expenditure in this area included the BID manager’s salary, posting and printing City Focus, the footfall camera and office costs. Costs in this area are projected to fall to £73,805 in 2013/14.
The second biggest area of expenditure in 2012/13 was promotion and came to £62,802. It included the Christmas lights and events, marketing and the independents’ guide, amongst others. Costs in this area are expected to rise to £79,850 in 2013/14.
A total of £35,000, was spent on safety, initiatives including working with ChiBAC and Sussex Police to reduce anti-social behaviour in Crane Street. Expenditure is expected to remain the same in 2013/14.
In 2012/13, £2,334 was spent on the environment, with the bulk of money being spent on organising a design competition for a gateway to Crane Street. However, environment spending is expected to rise to £59,000 in 2013/14 with additional spending on Crane Street, St Martin’s Street and In Bloom.
The five other main expenditure areas were: collection costs, software costs, developing BID proposals, ballot process and BID project contingency. However, only two of these – collection costs and project contingency – will continue in 2013/14.
In total, expenditure in 2012/13 was £249,468, expected to rise to £273,735 in 2013/14.
The biggest source of revenue in 2012/13 was the BID levy which raised £271,412. However, bad debt provision of £22,000 was subtracted from that to bring the net BID levy to £249,412.
Additional income is listed at £13,333, bringing the total income to £262,745.
In 2013/14, the net BID levy is expected to rise to £267,400 and additional income is predicted to fall to £5,940, increasing total income to £273,340.
BID members are invited to the Chichester BID Annual General Meeting and Open Evening next week.
The City Centre Partnership will welcome businesses to come and meet the board and to see what has been done with the BID levy over the last year, as well as what is planned for the future.
Directors will be available to answer questions and take suggestions.
Date: Thursday, April 25
Time: 5pm - 7pm
Venue: The Old Court Room, The Council House, North Street, Chichester
Those who plan to attend should call 01243 773263 or by email email@example.com.