Newport Now BID has been made aware of an online blog written by a local Conservative campaigner which includes quotes from a Conservative councillor. The blog makes a number of references to the BID.
The BID is open to public scrutiny and we recognise the freedom of expression displayed by the blog.
However, there are some inaccuracies and misconceptions contained within the blog.
It is important to note the BID is a non-political organisation. We are a private not for profit company financed and administered by eligible businesses in Newport city centre.
Like all BIDs (there are 17 in Wales and around 300 across the UK), Newport Now exists because the businesses of the city centre voted to set it up. This happened in 2014 and the BID began delivering a five-year business plan in April 2015.
All BIDs have a five-year lifespan before businesses are balloted again to see if they wish the organisation to continue for a further five years. Newport Now had a successful re-ballot in late 2019 and began delivering a second five-year business plan in April 2020. Another renewal ballot will take place in late 2024.
The BID is administered by a board of volunteer directors, all of whom either run or own businesses in the city centre, or are voluntary BID levy payers. The board also includes one member appointed by the local authority.
All BIDs are financed via a small statutory annual levy paid by eligible businesses in the prescribed BID area. This levy is a percentage of the rateable value of each business premises. In Newport’s case only businesses with a rateable value of £5,000 or more per annum pay the levy, which is 1.25% of rateable value (or 1% for businesses in managed shopping centres).
The average annual levy payment for businesses in the Newport Now BID area is £290.
The BID is disappointed that the blog by Michael Enea and comments from Councillor Ray Mogford show a fundamental lack of understanding of how BIDs work. The article also contains some inaccuracies, which we are duty bound to correct.
The BID chairman, Zep Bellavia, has invited Mr Enea and Councillor Mogford to discuss the issues raised in the blog and to further explain the work delivered by Newport Now.
The BID is also disappointed it was not contacted in advance of the blog’s publication as we would have been more than happy to discuss the points raised within it, and to explain how the BID works and the projects it decides to deliver, in consultation with BID members, with its annual levy income.
The BID provided Mr Enea and Councillor Mogford with advance notice of this statement an hour before its publication.
The BID wishes to make the following points in response to the blog:
The BID does not employ a ‘City Centre Manager’ and never has done. Indeed, the BID does not directly employ any individuals but instead engages contractors as this is a more efficient use of levy payers’ money.
The BID has had four part-time managers since its inception in 2015. Prior to 2017, the BID contracted a manager and a separate PR company. Since 2017, the BID has contracted Kevin Ward Media Ltd to deliver both management and PR services. Again, this has proved a more cost-efficient use of levy payers’ money.
The blog correctly itemises the amount of levy received by the BID since 2018. However, it is incorrect to say this income is paid to the BID by the local authority. As with almost all BIDs, the local authority acts as the collecting agents for the levy and the BID invoices the council on a monthly basis. At no point is the BID levy, for want of a better phrase, council money.
The amount of levy received by the BID each year is not a secret. In our 2015-2020 and 2020-25 business plans, the amount of levy we expect to receive over a five-year term is listed, along with how we expect to spend the income. Actuals are then reported in our annual accounts, and to BID members at our AGM. Our current business plan and all our annual accounts can be found on our website here: https://www.newportnow.co.uk/resources
Our 2020-25 business plan estimates an annual BID levy income of £260,000 and therefore an income across the five years of £1.3 million. In reality, a combination of factors – most notably the conversion of commercial properties to residential and a national revaluation of rateable values – means our five-year income is likely to be closer to £1 million, with annual income for 23/24 and 24/25 reduced to £174,000.
As BID members were told at our AGM earlier this year, this reduction in income has led to some considerable cost savings including the BID manager voluntarily reducing his hours from four to three days a week. However, all services and projects are being maintained.
The BID should not be conflated with the local authority. All BIDs exist to provide services and projects in their areas that are above and beyond the work of local authorities. All BIDs have a baseline services agreement with their local authority to ensure services that should be delivered by councils are not expected to be taken over by BIDs.
The BID is aware of the political issues raised in the blog, but these are not matters for the BID. The BID was not involved in the decision to create a City Centre Manager post and played no part in the selection, interview and appointment process.
The Newport Now BID delivers a series of projects and services across three themed areas:
Safe & Secure: Daytime Street Ambassadors on duty Tuesday-Saturday 9am to 5pm; grant-funded Night Ambassadors on duty Fridays and Saturdays 8pm-4am; funding the Newport Business Against Crime Partnership (including free membership of NBaC for all levy payers); membership of Pub Watch, taking the lead on Purple Flag, delivering a graffiti removal service.
Welcome: We organise and deliver the annual Christmas lights switch-on event, and provide funding for other city centre events including the Big Splash, Pride in the Port, the City of Newport Half Marathon, Record Store Day, and the Food Festival; our gift card can only be spent in Newport city centre; we offer a shopfront improvement grant to BID members; our empty shops project sees long-standing empty units decorated in a uniform way with paintings and drawings from local schoolchildren.
Future: Our city centre app features offers and discounts from local businesses, along with trails and events; our Savings Advisory Service has saved businesses in the city centre around £100,000 on energy, telecoms and merchant fees, we provide regular free training for businesses in areas such as digital marketing, GDPR and anti-terrorism.
For more information about Newport Now BID, please visit our website www.newportnow.co.uk