The Evolution of London’s Business Improvement Districts, Future of London’s new report, delivered in partnership with Rocket Science, was launched on 10th March at the Shard. Commissioned by the GLA and London Enterprise Panel to assess the impact and potential of London BIDs in a fast-changing municipal environment, the report builds on existing data with front-line experiences, culminating in short- and long-term recommendations for the GLA, London boroughs and BIDs.
Joe Mitton, Special Advisor to the Mayor of London, kicked things off on a celebratory note: the Mayor’s target of reaching 50 BIDs by the end of his term has been reached and exceeded, due to successful ballots in Marble Arch and Euston. Reflecting on the report infographic that quantifies BIDs’ impact to date, a lot has been achieved in 10 years.
Future of London director Lisa Taylor and Rocket Science founding director John Griffiths ran through the findings of the report, emphasising the need for BIDs to collaborate with each other and their boroughs in challenging and uncertain economic times. Business rates revaluation could have devastating impacts on small businesses in rapid growth areas, and a growing number of competing financial pressures on businesses, from Crossrail to apprenticeships, could see businesses remove support from BIDs – the only voluntary levy.
LSE Professor Tony Travers brought two decades of BIDs knowledge to the proceedings, citing the City of London-funded study of BIDs in New York delivered by LSE in 1996. BIDs have always been part of the local governance system, but significant cuts to environment, planning and public realm departments will give BIDs a greater role. He speculated that the proposed full retention of business rates would incentivise local planning authorities to allow greater levels of development density, and that paying for Crossrail 2 could mean a doubling of the existing Crossrail 1 levy for all London businesses.
Nick Durston, CEO of Southbank BID, said that all BIDs need to “collaborate, commit and innovate”, in order to have a role in a rapidly expanding London. He explained that South Bank BID was long preceded by South Bank Employers Group (SBEG), whose 25-year history had helped to transform the area from the ‘cardboard city’ of the 1980s to the thriving cultural and business district recognisable today. Yet the continuing pressure on the area led to the decision to form the BID in 2014, and it is now providing a voice for an ever-expanding business community, delivering services and spearheading innovative schemes, such as the South Bank living wage zone.
The final speaker was Simon Pitkeathley, CEO of Camden Town Unlimited and proposer of the new Euston Town BID. He reflected that while it remains unclear how many BIDs London should have, it is crucial that BIDs look outwards and seize the opportunities created by a city whose governance and fiscal structures are in flux.
Questions and thoughts from the audience included: the need for more work to be done on setting baselines and standards on which BIDs’ impact can be measured and compared; BIDs’ role in tackling London’s major infrastructure challenges, and a call for the next Mayor of London to ensure there is a senior BIDs champion in post, to increase London BIDs’ profile.
Download the full report here [pdf]. Future of London will continue to disseminate the report findings to our network over the coming months. For more information, or to request a hard copy of the report, contact Jo Wilson.