Hexham Business Improvement District | Q&A
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Q&A

Hexham BID Q&A

With Brian Wilson, the Hygiene Machine, and Helen Grayshan, BID Manager

 

A local business, the Hygeine Machine, approached the BID with a list of questions, having visited neighbouring businesses  to understand their concerns. The answers to these questions were supplied by the BID Manager.

 

10th April 2017

 

  1. Communication is zero

At the moment we use our website, Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn to publish information. A mailing list is up to 310 email addresses – but businesses have to share this info with us or publicly for data protection reasons – you can sign up via the website. The County Council has only supplied us with names and addresses, and even then will not share those of sole traders, because this is ‘identifying information’ under the Data Protection Act. We press release news, and advertise in the Hexham Courant. We hold a stakeholder meeting every month on average, and Helen, the Manager, visits businesses or businesses networks every week. Post and hand distribution is less used due to cost – £400 minimum each delivery, but will be used for annual reports, bills and the AGM. There are 683 Levy payers in Hexham currently, so individual visits to everyone will take time. Clearly not all methods of communication will suit everyone.

 

  1. No meetings agendas or minutes

We publish tenders, news updates, key documents, and reports on progress, as required by the BID Regulations. We don’t publish the meeting minutes.

 

  1. What are they doing about proposals?

The projects proposed are contained in the Business Plan, on our website. This plan was developed in consultation with businesses in the period running up to the ballot in February 2016. The Steering Group and then Board met every 2 weeks, and lately meets monthly to oversee the delivery of the BID. They employ 1 member of staff. There are currently 9 voluntary Directors, listed on the website. A new Board will be elected at the AGM in the autumn.

 

  1. How far are we along the road ie has permission been applied for?

No permissions have been applied for yet.

 

  1. What money has been spent?

From 1st October to 31st March the BID spent £41665.13.

 

  1. What has it been spent on?

Spending was in line with the Business Plan. £20k was a loan repaid to British BIDs, borrowed to develop the BID. £4k was spent on updating and distributing 70,000 copies of a visit Hexham leaflet. The rest was staff salary and overheads essential for project development, such as rent, advertising, telephones etc

 

  1. What is being proposed?

We have 6 projects approved at the moment: Marketing, Business Support, Town Appearance, Signage, Business Voice and Cost Saving. The project in the market is awaiting results of the Sustrans consultation on the Marketplace.

 

  1. Who proposed it?

The projects are all based on the business plan.

 

  1. Who decided what and when should be done?

The project development process is as follows: each project has a ‘lead’ Director from the Board, who scopes out the project in an assessment form, which is discussed and agreed by the whole Board. The Manager then takes forward the project, either working with existing organisations in Hexham, or by bringing together a new group of businesses to steer the project. The Board always has the final decision on spending.

 

  1. Why has a vote not been carried out formally about proposals?

The ballot in February 2016 was in effect a vote on the Business Plan as a whole. To ask each of the 683 Levy payers to vote on each project would not be possible in practice. However, when we need to refine projects we will use surveys – for example, the cost saving project will need preferences from businesses which cost savings they like to investigate, such as telecoms, recycling, merchant services etc so we can prioritise according to business needs.

 

  1. Has a list of priorities been produced?

The Business Plan indicates all the projects we intend to develop over the next 4 years – they are not listed in order of priority. The Board met in October to prioritise which were the first ones brought forward.

 

  1. Website does not contain information businesses are wanting to know?

The BID is obliged by the Regulations to publish certain information, so the website is very text-heavy. Please let us know what else you’d like to see there and in what format. There is a lot of text at the moment because everything is required by the BID Regulations 2004.

 

  1. Alienation of businesses has been achieved

There is no intention to alienate anyone. We would like to communicate with every business. We have engaged with more than 300 so far, using the methods above.

 

  1. Fuel added to the ‘against’ lobby

Some Levy payers have been unhappy with the BID in Hexham. However, the ballot indicated a majority in favour, and we are confident that the BID will deliver something for all Hexham businesses, over time.

 

  1. Money wasted on court action

The County Council’s Business Rates team collects the Levy on behalf of the BID, for a fee of £6000 per annum. They follow standard business rates procedures when doing so. No extra BID funds have been spent on court action – there is an extra £45 charged when a summons is issued to cover these costs. Most businesses paid promptly and we are grateful for that.

 

  1. My time used doing their job

The BID has relied greatly on volunteers so far, the Directors who give time they would have spent running their businesses have contributed an enormous amount ‘in kind’, as have the many supporters, attendees at stakeholder groups and those who’ve invited the Manager into their business. We are very grateful for this support and are aware that word of mouth communication is just as effective as the methods used above.

 

  1. £34k a year – what is going on?

The Manager, the only employee at the moment, was recruited after a public advertisement listing job description and salary. The BID also pays employment costs of employers National Insurance and NEST pension, just as any employer does.