A Business Improvement District – or BID – is a way for local businesses to work together to tackle issues that affect their trading environment. Problems which are too large or widespread for any one business to address can be solved by all businesses coming together to finance and manage improvements. This can increase footfall, make it easier to retain staff, solve difficult issues and ultimately result in higher profits.
Businesses in hundreds of towns and cities across the country already benefit from being part of a BID. The nearest BIDs to Watford are in St Albans, Harrow, Hemel Hempstead, Welwyn Garden City, Hitchin and Letchworth. There are eight BIDs in Hertfordshire and 320 across the country.
Watford BID Ltd began trading on 3 April 2016 following a successful ballot in October 2015. A BID can only operate for a maximum term of five years, after which it must again hold a ballot to determine whether businesses want another five-year term. Watford BID’s first term ends on 31 March 2021.
The BID ballot is a process through which every person or organisation liable to pay the non-domestic rates for a property in the BID area gets to vote on whether they want to have a BID. This vote is based on the Business Plan which each business will received prior to the ballot paper. A ballot happens before a BID is set up or at the end of a BID’s five year term. An organisation with multiple properties will get multiple votes.
The ballot for Watford BID’s second term will take place from 8 January 2021 to 4 February 2021. Ballot papers will be issued by post by Watford Borough Council and must be returned to Watford Town Hall before 5pm on 4 February 2021. If the ballot is successful, the new BID term will start on 1 April 2021. If it is unsuccessful, the company will cease trading on 31 March 2021.
You may appoint a proxy to vote on your behalf. Applications to appoint a proxy must be submitted to Watford Borough Council no later than 5pm on Monday 25 January 2021. Please contact the Returning Officer, Watford Borough Council, Electoral Services Office, Room 22, Town Hall, Watford, WD17 3EX. Alternatively you can email: email@example.com or call 01923 278339.
Ballot papers will be posted out on 4th January 2021. If you have not received your ballot paper by Friday 29 January 2021, then you may apply in writing to Watford Borough Council for a replacement paper. The letter must be signed by the Eligible Voter and evidence of the voter’s identity must be provided. Please contact the Returning Officer, Watford Borough Council, Electoral Services Office, Room 22, Town Hall, Watford, WD17 3EX. Alternatively you can email: firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01923 278339.
The new BID term will go ahead only if firstly the number of YES votes exceed the number of NO votes; and secondly if the total rateable of the properties that voted YES exceeds the total rateable value of those that voted NO. Votes are counted by officials at Watford Borough Council, who will then announce the result on 5 February 2021.
The BID will continue to improve the look and feel of the town centre through visual enhancements such as its much loved floral displays and its commitment to safety initiatives; to market the town centre and encourage footfall around the town; and to work with other stakeholders on longer term development opportunities that will keep Watford thriving. Details on what Watford BID has achieved in its first term and plans for its second term can be found in the BID Business Plan.
The BID is funded primarily by all the eligible businesses and organisations in the BID paying an annual BID levy. This levy income is used to lever in more funding; for example from public sector agencies, grant bodies and sponsorship during the 5 year term, maximising the potential funding stream and the benefits that the BID can achieve. Over the course of the first term of the BID we generated on average 24% additional income per year, which was reinvested back into the BID area to support our businesses.
The person or organisation liable to pay the non-domestic rates for the property, with a rateable value of £10,000 or more, is liable to pay the BID levy. Where a property is occupied this will be the occupier, for empty properties the person or organisation entitled to occupy the property is liable to pay. This will normally be the leaseholder or the owner.
The charging mechanism is simple and fair. The BID levy is currently charged at 1.25% of the Rateable Value of each eligible business within the BID area. Retailers that pay a service charge to Watford Shopping Centre are charged at the lower rate of 1%. This rate will continue for the first two years of a second BID term, in recognition of the impact COVID is having, but then increase to 1.5% and 1.25% respectively. Registered Charitable organisations not based within a retail unit will pay a reduced BID levy rate of 0.5% for the entire BID term.
The table below gives an idea of how much different types of business may be asked to invest, at different levy rates.
|Example business type||Rateable Value||Annual BID levy|
|Small High Street shop/café etc||£20,000||£250|
|Medium high street shop/café/bank||£70,000||£875|
|Large high street shop/café/bank||£125,000||£1625|
|Town centre car park||£350,000||£4375|
|Large department store||£900,000||£9,000|
By law the services provided by a BID must be additional services to those provided by the local authorities or enhancements to existing services. This means the BID levy does not pay for statutory or Council services, but it will contribute to enhancing an activity or service the Council provides. BIDs succeed because they are focused, cost-efficient, entrepreneurial and add significant value to an area. They provide additional, supplementary resources and activities, an outline of these services can be found in the Business Plan.
If the BID ballot is successful then all non-domestic ratepayers in the BID area from 1 April 2021 to 31 March 2026 will have to pay an annual BID levy. This includes persons or organisations who become ratepayers after the date of the ballot. Even if you voted no you are still obliged to pay the annual levy.
Watford BID is a not for profit organisation, limited by guarantee. The BID Board is made up of representatives from different business sectors operating in the BID area. Its directors are elected annually and meet every two months, with the responsibility for governance matters such as financial arrangements, contractual obligations, human resources, standards and compliance. Annual accounts are compiled by independent accountants and filed with Companies House. The accounts are available to all levy payers and an annual report is given to all levy payers. The BID will also maintain its British BIDs accreditation achieved in 2018 for high quality management and governance. As a not for profit company any additional income generated is spent in the BID area.
The BID will continue to survey participating businesses after each activity or project, to see if they offer value for money both for the business and consumer. An independent company will again be commissioned to undertake a mid-term review of the BID to make sure the BID is on the right track and delivering what was promised. Results from the mid-term review conducted in 2019 were made available to levy payers at the time, and are available on request.
The BID team and board are available to discuss plans for a second BID term with you. This can be via email, phone, video conferencing or via a socially distanced meeting. Please contact the office to arrange this by calling 01923 919981 or email email@example.com
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