Tuesday, 31 May 2011

The man from The Electoral Reform Society he say YES

Great news! At just after 5pm this afternoon I was able to announce to gathered businesmen in The Plaza building in Old Hall Street that the establishment of the Commercial District BID had been agreed by the kind of vote for which  politicians would kiss babies.

In order to ensure that the establishment of a BID had to demonstrate wide support in the business community the national government inserted a number of safeguards. Promoters of a BID have to demonstrate that 20% of business even want the matter to go to a vote and, when the vote is taken, not one but two majorities have to be established. That smaller businesses' interests are taken into account means that a majority of all businesses, on a one business one vote basis, has to be established. This means that the vote of the business with one or two employees carries as much weight as the giant multi national conglomerate. That the interests of the large businesses are catered for has to be established by a vote weighted by rateable value. In this vote the large businesses with large offices, greater floorspace, and therefore a higher rateable value, carry more weight.  Designing a prospectus for the BID which appeals to both constituencies is therefore a challenging task.

Today's vote was carried clearly in both sections of the vote. In the one-business-one-vote section there was a 60% vote in favour. In the weighted vote section there was a 70% vote in favour. Many local councillors in Liverpool have been elected with lower percentages of the vote than this.

The establishment of the BID means that businesses will contribute £3 million pounds over the next five years to the continued regeneration of the Commercial District. Spending has to be in line with the prospectus put to the vote and the BID board will be business led. In a BID there is no such thing as going back on your promises as national politicians have done in very recent history.

The news of the vote was met with great jubilation by the businesses gathered together. The success of the vote owes a lot to many of the people who were there but is a particularly remarkable triumph for Paul Rice, who has suffered greatly from poor health over the past year, and David Guest from Bruntwood who stepped up to the plate and ensured that the campaign did not falter.  The BID is in good hands as Paul, David and others take on the challenge of invigorating the Commercial District.

Sunday, 29 May 2011

Crucial election result to be declared this Tuesday

The people of Liverpool are probably generally sublimely unaware that a crucial election campaign is being fought in the very heart of Liverpool and the result will be declared on Tuesday.

Businesses in the Commercial District are voting on whether to become a fully fledged Business Improvement District. Additional funding for developing this fundamentally economically important district of Liverpool hang on a successful "yes" vote.

Liverpool has been a trail blazer for Business Improvement Districts. City Central Bid is already a great success and people like Ed Oliver and Gerrard Gibbons have made it an indispensable feature of the City Centre's management. BID Pioneer Paul Rice (see photograph below) has driven the campaign to develop and found Liverpool's second BID and everything comes to a climax on Tuesday.

On a personal level, and not simply because I am a member of the Executive Board of Liverpool's BID company, this is a crucial vote. Many years ago I approached the Director of Regeneration at the North West Development Agency with a short paper recommending that the NWDA support Business Improvement Districts. At that time the Labour Government was considering introducing legislation based on an american model. The Director agreed that we should try and give the north west a head start and put me in charge of running a pilot to stimulate the development of BIDs in the north west. Liverpool BID was one of the pilots that were supported through this project. The North West became the leading region in the country, outside of London, for the formation of BIDs as the pilots were ready to go to a vote of businesses as soon as the legislation was in place.
BIDs work on the democratic principle of local businesses deciding collectively on a levy based on their rates which is then spent exclusively to support those businesses through providing things like additional security, cleaning, promotional events and through this having a direct impact on businesses' bottom lines. The additionality is very important and the levy must not be used to substitute for local authority provision.

Hopefully the yes vote will be delivered on Tuesday and then we can look at how the BIDs can be even more involved in city centre management. As Ed Oliver says, "It is time to take the BIDs to another level". Paul, Ed, Ged,myself and many businessmen who have supported a yes vote will be metaphorically chewing our nails as the results envelope is opened.

Saturday, 28 May 2011

Rebirth and Revival

The dictionary defines regeneration as restoration of something that has been lost, new growth or, in a different context, spiritual rebirth. It is therefore totally appropriate that the book about the history of the Eldonians from the Vauxhall area of Liverpool was entitled "The rebirth of Liverpool; The Eldonian Way".

My first view of Vauxhall was in the early 80s waiting for a coach to take me from the Love Lane Sugar factory to Glasgow to protest against the growth of unemployment under Mrs Thatcher's first government. This factory was soon to close and leave a big empty space in physical and spiritual terms in the Vauxhall Community. The area lost an important source of employment and the physical blight of the area  was correspondingly increased.

I was soon back in Vauxhall to lend the support of the Co-operative Movement to the Eldonian Group as they struggled against a Militant led Labour Council to rebuild their community on the site of the old factory.  I looked on in wonder as the community won their battle for the rebirth of their area.

The loss of jobs in the area has not yet been replaced but the Eldonians transformed the physical blight of their area into a World Habitat Award winning housing development.

The dirty industrial canal became a beautiful feature of the area and a launch pad for the extension in recent years to the city centre at the Pier Head.

Regeneration can truly be a rebirth and an inspiration to further action. It remains my inspiration to this day. You can read the full story in Jack McBain's book http://www.liverpool-unipress.co.uk/html/publication.asp?idProduct=3577

But the story isn't over as The Eldonian energy for the continuing transformation of their area continues. I hope to cover this story and others as this blog develops.

Friday, 27 May 2011

Why on earth am I blogging?

I've resisted for years any thought of blogging. It seemed to me to be an extra task in an already crowded agenda but increasingly people live their lives online and interact with the rest of the world that way. I have learned to have fun and make contact with new friends and colleagues on Facebook which have translated into "real world" relationships. I have learned to Tweet and to develop a whole new way of sourcing information from known contacts and many unknown. Linked-in is a developing tool for me as I develop a network of professional contacts. But blogging? Well at least let's put my feet in the water at the shallow end. @bizmarketingpro tells me that I should blog from a place of passion and about myself and my work, keep it short and simple and showcase my expertise. The first three seem very easy to me but perhaps the fourth may be a bit more difficult. Perhaps however after 11 years in a Regional Development Agency in a variety of policy roles from SRB onwards, taking in experience in sub regional regeneration and moving into health and equalities plus my political role in expressing that knowledge into practical effect I may just have picked up a thing or two. So this is what I will do. I will blog about my passion for regeneration and the transformation of localities taking in practical examples from my day to day work and I will keep it short and simple. I will leave it to others whether in that process I display any expertise.