Government pledges millions to help high streets through Covid-19

Cheltenham

Hundreds of local business partnerships across England will share £6.1 million of funding to spend on projects that will help their local economies through the current crisis.

The money will be paid to local authorities and dispersed to Business Improvement Districts (BIDs). These are local business partnerships that bring developers and communities together to provide local leadership, drive regeneration and deliver projects and additional local services.

Across this region, there are BIDS in place in Cheltenham, Worcester, Stratford-upon-Avon, Banbury, Leamington Spa, Coventry, Reading, Newbury and Chippenham.

But a new national campaign, #Raisethebar, says this isn’t going to touch the sides of what’s really needed. A maximum of £1.365bn in Government support is needed to enable the Retail, Hospitality and Leisure (RHLG) grant to support all 54,638 businesses falling within a business rates threshold of £51,000 to £150,000.

Many BIDs are now playing a crucial role during these challenging economic times, offering hands-on support to those businesses affected, including advice services, increased security to protect businesses that have closed, and providing key intelligence to local and central government on the impact of the coronavirus outbreak on their local economies.

High Streets Minister Simon Clarke MP said: “The government has announced a comprehensive programme of support for businesses to help them deal with the economic impact caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and today we are extending that support to Business Improvement Districts.

BIDs are uniquely placed and have a proven track record of success in supporting local businesses, empowering communities, championing our town centres and driving forward the renewal of our high streets.

It’s only right that during these unprecedented times we give them all the necessary support they need to continue operating, so that they can carry on their vital work now and crucially when we move into the recovery phase from the current crisis.”

British BIDs Chris Turner said: “Government has listened to the requests that we have made on behalf of the BID industry.

“I am exceptionally grateful to the numerous BIDs that have actively supported and engaged with this process, particularly those who joined in our initial Q&A sessions and completed the online survey which, together, provided us with the evidence that we needed.

“My thanks also must go to those levy paying businesses that have backed their BIDs in the request for assistance and to the ATCM and the BID Foundation who have worked in partnership with us on this.

“I am pleased that the outcome is this announcement of much needed support for the industry.”

Bill Addy, Chair of The BID Foundation, said: “BIDs have already stepped up to support those affected by the COVID-19 crisis.

“This includes working with local councils, emergency services and businesses to ensure help and information gets to those who need it; supporting shuttered shops to adapt and deliver their services online; and helping to coordinate safe and secure spaces that meet health advice.

“This new government support is a partial safeguard for BIDs, which are paid for by their member businesses, and will enable them in the short term to continue their vital local efforts now and to plan for the future.”

Simon Quin, Executive Director of the High Streets Task Force, added: “BIDs have established networks and capacity in their local areas which provide vital coordination and help, both for businesses getting back on their feet and for communities that will need guidance and reassurance to return to the high street, when it is safe to do so.

“By accessing this support, BIDs can ensure they continue to make a real difference to the recovery of our town and city centres.”

BIDs help leverage private investment to support high street regeneration. In 2019, BIDs across England raised more than £106.7 million through levy payments to invest back into their respective towns and cities. Their role will be even more important in the recovery phase from the current crisis.