BedfordBID helps to promote the town centre and keeps people “buying local”. Following a month long ballot 56% by number and 73% by rateable value voted Yes and ensured another five years of investment in the town centre by businesses based there.
Some £500,000 a year will be collected in legal levy payments and at least a further £100,000 a year will be received in voluntary contributions and other income, giving the BID £600,000 to spend in promoting Bedford and ensuring customers have a good experience – including help from the town centre Bluecap guides.
Kevin Kavanagh, of Frecoes Coffee House in Millstreet and deputy chairman of the BedfordBID board, said: “When the credit crunch arrived, other towns were rushing to put survival and ‘shop local’ plans into place. BedfordBID was ahead of them with a structured, well researched and executed business plan and so Bedford has weathered the storm far better than others.”
There is great news for the smallest businesses as the structure of the levy has been altered so that the smallest ones will not have to pay – although they still get all the benefits.
The Harpur Shopping Centre makes a voluntary contribution above those paid by its 40-plus individual retail outlets. Centre manager Paul Smith said: “BedfordBID has made a dramatic difference to retailers at The Harpur Shopping Centre with promotions, events and the Bluecaps, who have been a positive addition to the town.”
The BID had resulted in the clean-up and reduction in graffiti. “Bluecaps take pictures of graffiti, we provide CCTV footage to the police and arrests have been made as a result. That shows the success of working together to the benefit of businesses and visitors to Bedford town centre,” said Mr Smith. He also praised the BedfordBID gift voucher scheme.
BedfordBID executive director Mo Aswat said : “As well as making sure we were doing our job, we have been listening and learning over the past five years. When Bedford was the first county town in the UK to become a BID, there was no blueprint to follow.
"Over the intervening period we have recognised what works well and what could be improved. Hence the fact that the smallest businesses will not have to pay the levy – but will get all the benefits.”
He plans to promote the BedfordBID Vouchers – so far local £150,000 worth have been invested in Bedford – and aims to work closely with Bedford Borough Council on the issues of parking and street cleaning.