Agenda item

Business Improvement District (BID)

Objective: Chief Executive of BID to present the business plan


Heath Gunter, BID CEO


Heath Gunter, Chief Executive of the BID, explained that the BID had been renewed for a second five-year term in June 2021, with 86% of participating businesses voting in favour. It was led and funded by businesses, having expanded to now cover 772 in total. It charged 1.25% of the rateable value of the property, with exceptions for smaller businesses.

He outlined the four pillars on which the BID operated: marketing and promotion, business support, town centre events and townscape enhancements. It was a founding partner of Marketing Cheltenham and had helped launch the Visit Cheltenham website and the Cheltenham gift card. Some of its most visible work had been seen in the town centre, such as the new and extended Christmas lights, with more than 10,000 people attending the 2019 switch-on event. Light Up Cheltenham and the big wheel had attracted even more people to the town centre and boosted business as a result. They also sponsored major events like the Paint Festival, Wellbeing Festival and Festival of Cycling, and he stressed the importance of spreading people around the town rather than focusing everything in one area. It was key to improve both the quantity and quality of events, and this meant making Cheltenham an appealing place to hold them.

He noted that the pandemic had made it clear that many businesses were not digital ready. The BID provided support to help them achieve this and benefit from the significant potential for marketing and communications. They also helped businesses sort out their energy bills to save money, and had given advice to businesses that were unaware exactly what grants they were entitled to during the rounds of Covid business support. It also ran a business of the month award and an annual awards ceremony to highlight outstanding achievements. In the next BID term, he wanted to get ambassadors out to these businesses and meet them face-to-face, directly addressing their concerns. It was essential to continue building partnerships with businesses and organisations across the county.

One Member praised Cheltenham’s Christmas events and asked whether other religious festivals were supported by the BID. The BID CEO responded that this would be a key aspect of their work, as it was important to engage with different groups in the community.

One Member asked whether the BID levy was mandatory for businesses in the area. The BID CEO responded that it was, and that collections were administered by the council’s rates team. There were some exceptions, which were outlined in their rules. Around 97% of businesses paid the levy each year, although payments had effectively been over 100% in 2021 year because some businesses which hadn’t paid in previous years had caught up. Some debts were written off depending on circumstances, and the BID did not aggressively chase businesses that were unable to pay. He noted that it was generally larger corporate businesses that did not pay.

One Member noted that the levy was due to increase by 0.02% per year. If inflation were to exceed this, how would the BID cope with overall drop in income? The BID CEO responded that a lot of their expenditure had been on setting up infrastructure, such as the energy supply for the Christmas lights, which were one-off hits and would not need to be paid for again. If necessary, the levy could be increased with the agreement of the BID board.

One Member asked for further detail on the role of the ambassadors. The BID CEO clarified that there were currently three paid ambassadors who varied between full-time and part-time. He did some of the ambassadorial work himself.

One Member asked how many defibrillators the BID provided. The BID CEO responded that there were currently two in Montpellier and one on the Strand, and he was working to get sponsorship to provide more in the near future.

One Member asked whether there were any plans to extend the BID inclusion zone. The BID CEO responded that there were not currently, but this could be explored in the BID’s next term were it to be renewed again.

One Member asked how the gift card offer was being publicised. The BID CEO acknowledged that it had not been publicised as much as it should have been, and he was keen to push this harder in years to come. The high turnover of staff due to Covid had affected results as workers were often unaware what the card was when customers presented it.

One Member asked how the BID would help to reduce energy use and contribute to other climate change goals. The BID CEO responded that this was central to its aims, and he was working closely with the Cabinet Member Climate Emergency to see how it could contribute.

One Member asked how much members of the BID interacted with each other, considering the potential for mutually beneficial relationships if businesses were prepared to engage. The BID CEO agreed that this was a key benefit of partnership working that they should encourage wherever possible.

Supporting documents: