When BIDs go bad!

BIDs are perfect, right?

Most of you reading this will, I hope, be advocates for BIDs, certainly in the sense of them being vehicles for delivering projects that support towns and cities, acting as a voice for business and generally taking a lead on local partnership working.

Read more articles about BIDs in issue 17 of Place Magazine
Read more articles about BIDs in issue 17 of Place Magazine

My own opinion is that, pretty much without exception, they do good stuff, some do great stuff, and some are exceptional. And it tends to be the case that, as BIDs mature, like wine, they get better with age.

Sadly, though, there are exceptions. To date, there have not been any instances of BIDs failing to renew after 10 years (a small but growing sample size, I admit). After a decade of delivery, all but the most fervent anti-BID businesses see the value for money they provide, but what if a BID was being so badly mismanaged that the atmosphere within its business community became toxic to the point of levy payers voting a BID out in spite of its record of delivery?

It pains me to say that this is a very real scenario I’ve come across recently.  A CIC has been set up to rival the BID (well, not so much rival as do the things the BID should be doing!), and its first project is a crowdfunder to raise money so that businesses and consumers in the area can have Christmas Lights this year as the BID can no longer afford them. 

 

BIDs more cartel than support?

Ask the local business community and they’ll tell you the BID board is more like a cartel. In nine years, 51 people have been directors and resigned. Most of the five who remain have been there since the start.

It seems ludicrous that an area with a BID should see a voluntary group crowdfunding to do the things it should be, but I’m sure many of you will have come across cases where ego has got in the way of running a successful business -BID or otherwise.       

Most worryingly, this BID’s second term comes to an end next spring. Sometime between now and then, the BID is going to ask businesses to vote for a third term.  As it stands today, I can’t see that happening.

There seems to be no easy answer to this problem either, a small gang of directors who are unwilling to cede control standing against a business community who are passionate about their area and support BIDs in general but who have arrived at a point where they see no BID as the best way forward.

It does, though, highlight the importance of good governance and getting the structures right from the outset.  I wonder how many BIDs have terms of reference, codes of conduct, or even contracts for their directors?  I imagine that the number is growing as the industry matures and we see examples of worst practice as well as best practice.

And, this scenario reminds us all that BIDs are not necessarily the only route to success – committed and passionate individuals make the difference, whether that’s within the structure of a BID or within some other kind of mechanism.

 

Matt Powell

More articles like this can be found in issue 17 of Place Magazine – download here for free

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