Rob Hodgkiss said:
Rob Hodgkiss

In conversation with Rob Hodgkiss on the Knaresborough BID

22 June 2021

Knaresborough has for some time been developing a Business Improvement District or a BID.

A BID has a defined geographical area, with business in the area given a vote on if the BID is implemented, but then required to pay levy owards running the BID.

  1. Consultation
  2. Produce Summary Business Plan
  3. Consultation
  4. Produce Full Business Plan
  5. BID Ballot (deferred until September 2021 due to lockdowns)

BID’s continue to be controversial, with not all of them being successful.

A significant criticism of BIDs is around their level of accountability. Each BID is setup as a Limited Company, that is give BID levy cash collected through the local authority.

Being a limited company, that means they don’t have a legal obligation to talk to anyone, and information can not be requested using the Freedom of Information Process.

BID Boards attract individuals that genuinely wish to contribute to the community via he BID, but they are also a magnet for individuals that just think their status is deserving of being on the board or people that just want to get their snouts in the trough for the bid levy cash.

There is  a strong reliance on the BID Board to do the right thing, and manage a BID in the right way.

Rob Hodgkiss has a property rental business, with properties in Knaresborough and elsewhere.

Rob is part of the taskforce leading the work around putting the BID proposals together. We asked Rob for interview time, and was very happy to oblige.

Rob Hodgkiss said:

My current business is accommodation, a guesthouse and aparthotel in Harrogate, 4 apartments in Knaresborough and some apartments away from North Yorkshire.

I went a long to a Chamber of Trade to get  a bit closer to Knaresborough, but couldn’t make the regular meetings. In one of the early meetings, the idea of a BID was presented.

That being a BID where the businesses in the town contribute, giving a working budget, allowing the task force and board of the BID to do something useful.

That gave something worthwhile, and something that could have an impact.

Largely speaking the voluntary organisations around the town do some fantastic work, but are limited on the budgets that they have to work with.

For me the model of a BID has been proven with over 300 of them around the UK, and 90% getting voted back in. Some fail, there are some weaknesses, but it is a proven model.

There are people that give up their time for the benefit of Knaresborough and others that don’t give up their time, but still get the benefit, and for me that is a bit skewed.

I like the BID model, that’s why I said I would get involved.

There are other organisations in Knaresborough, and the BID needs to talk to those organisations to ensure there is no overlap or gaps.

The BID has received private funding from local businesses and individuals, match funding by Harrogate Borough Councils – those are all loan agreements paid back on successful BID.

Rob Hodgkiss said:

The funding model whereby a levy is applied to each business, depending on the rateable value. That allows benefit to be delivered to the town.

They are benefits that won’t be delivered by people on a Saturday morning with a couple of hours spare, but will be committed expenditure to people that are expert in what they do, to make it happen.

They are now at a stage of producing a full business plan, that needs to be costed and achievable.

Rob Hodgkiss said:

Peter Lacey runs a medical consultancy in Knaresborough, and he lead the prioritisation of work that maybe useful to the the BID . We weren’t led by the external consultant on this work.

We had some workshops with businesses in the the town and had around 40 businesses that put ideas forward, a brainstorm if you like. That, along with items that had been sensitive on social media, gave us a long-list. We considered so many things, Christmas trees, hanging baskets, cliff lifts, it was a long list, almost everything that Knaresborough had ever thought of.

Then we set a short-listing criteria. Was it going to have the maximum impact to the maximum breadth of benefit to the widest number and type of businesses across the town. There was a short-listing list of around 12 things, to make sure that we weren’t going to be doing things that were already being done.

From that list we prioritised that list and it gave a very clear step down, with around 8 items giving a very clear group of priority items.

That has given us a summary business plan, and the exercise now is to put together a detailed business plan together, cost it all up and be sure that we can deliver the items we plan to.

Knaresborough has many small businesses rather than the big chain stores. Each BID is bespoke to the business environment it operates.

Rob Hodgkiss said:

Some have questioned if the overall levy enough to make a difference and others if the levy is too high and they can’t afford to pay it.

Each BID has a different approach, depending upon the make-up of its members.

It’s about striking a balance of what is manageable and affordable. and what is  going to be sufficient to be impactful.

The levy for 91% of businesses will be  0, £250 or £365 per annum and they are set by bands according to their rateable value.

What we need is a board that is trustworthy, and that will hold each other to account so you are doing the right thing.

For further details see Knaresborough BID website

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