The Skipton BID has undoubtedly made a huge difference to the fortunes of the town over the last ten years.
It has funded or helped fund many of the fantastic events hosted here in that time; it has set up schemes to help tackle crime and anti-social behaviour; it has given grant funding for events; and it has helped keep the town’s streets looking wonderful by providing funding for Skipton In Bloom.
BID levy-payers will go to the polls in January to decide whether or not to give the BID a third five-year term – and the Craven Herald is backing the Vote Yes campaign.
Next week, the BID board launches its Business Plan for the 2019-2024 term when full details of its proposals for the next five years will be revealed.
Ahead of that event, we talk to BID founder member and current chairman Andrew Mear about why it is so important to allow the BID to continue….
As a businessman and landlord in the town, Andrew Mear is only too aware of the importance of joined-up thinking and the value of working together for the good of Skipton as a whole.
He recognised the value of the BID when it was first mooted more than 10 years ago, and happily got involved, initially as a board member, and then as chairman at the end of the first term.
And he has no doubt that having the BID helped businesses in Skipton during some very difficult years.
“There’s no doubt in my mind that it insulated us through the recession years. It was tough but it would have been far tougher without a BID.
“The wheels fell off the economy in 2008, and we were there to help Skipton through the aftermath of that,” he said.
Skipton was one of the first to set up a BID when it was set up in 2009, and it has invested £1.5m in the town since then.
It has set up and runs the Visit Skipton website, operates the Skipton Crime Reduction Partnership, restored CCTV cameras to the town, provides the majority of funding for Skipton In Bloom, helps businesses seeking grants, helps fund the town ambassadors, and operates the Best Bar None scheme for licensed premises.
It also provides funding for Skipton Christmas Lights and the switch-on ceremony, as well as many of the festivals and events that bring thousands of people into Skipton every year, including the Christmas Markets, the Waterways Festival, the Skipton International Puppet Festival, Sheep Day, and the Skipton Cycle Races.
It is funded by a levy on businesses within the BID area based on their rateable values and the sector they trade in.
Andrew likens it to the online phenomena of crowdfunding. “That’s something people can understand. The term BID can seem a bit like jargon. But basically it’s like we are crowdfunding all these events and projects that support Skipton.
“People have to have sight of the bigger picture. It would be easy to take the view that the cost of the levy is something which could usefully remain directly in the pocket of your business,” he said.
“What can you do with, say, £100? But imagine what a difference 500 £100s could make if spent in a way to benefit the whole town.”
The BID is supported by many of the big players in the town, including Skipton Building Society, Craven District Council, Skipton Town Council, Craven College, Skipton Castle, and the Rendezvous Hotel.
But the board is keen to ensure that everyone is aware of the work that has been done and will be done for the benefit of the whole town.
It also wants to stress that a ‘No’ vote could have disastrous consequences for businesses and residents in Skipton.
The launch of the Business Plan outlining how the BID will invest the £800,000 levy a yes vote would see for the town takes place next Wednesday (October 3) at the Black Horse.
The board is keen for as many of the businesses involved as possible to come along and see for themselves what the benefits will be – and to be made aware of what could be lost through a no vote.
According to Andrew, Skipton simply cannot afford not to have a BID.
“What is for certain is that, without it, the ongoing investment will be lost forever. The money will simply not come from elsewhere. Local authorities are no longer in a position to step up to the mark and fill the gap.
“Don’t just take our word for it, though. Since 2014 the number of BIDs in the UK has increased dramatically. Skipton is now surrounded by other towns and cities, each with a BID doing great work
– Keighley, Colne, Otley, Halifax, and Leeds, for example. Others are on the way soon, including
Ilkley, Harrogate, Bradford, Burnley, Knaresborough, and Ripon.
“All of these places can’t be wrong – and it would be disastrous if Skipton, having been a pioneer of BIDs in the north of the country, was to lose its own. We really can’t afford to lose that investment at a time when surrounding places are ‘upping their game’.
“And the ‘game’ is all about coming together for the greater good. The value of your BID levy, on its own, is unlikely to transform your business – but the value of all those levies, put together, can make a huge difference to our fantastic town.”
Andrew recognises that there are some who don’t believe the events the BID support or the work it does has any impact on them, but he says it’s not just about seeing a direct impact. He says the cumulative effect of the investment in events and business support has benefited the whole town, making it more attractive for people to live in, and increasing potential trade for everyone, even those who may not see a direct benefit from events which bring in thousands of visitors. And a happier town means that staff who work in non-retail businesses like offices enjoy a happier environment, and if they live in town, a happier place to live, which would be a benefit to any business, he said. “The footfall counters show what we are doing here is working. Is it all through the BID? I’m very confident that without it, the numbers wouldn’t be what they are.”
*The launch of Skipton BID’s Third term Business Plan takes place on Wednesday – October 3 – in the Black Horse function room. There will be a reception and nibbles from 6pm with the launch starting at 7pm.