Northampton Town Centre Watchdog






A BID is a business-led initiative that gives businesses the power to manage and improve their own operating environment so that it directly benefits their business, their employees, clients and customers.

Working together, businesses identify projects and services that they consider are needed to add value to existing services.

These projects are clearly in addition to those that are normally supplied by the civic authorities.

In 2013 there were 104 BIDs around the UK, of which 64 were in town and city centres.

BIDs were designed to suit the needs of businesses in a local area and provide an opportunity to focus on:

  • Improving the trading conditions for businesses by increasing footfall.
  • Reducing the operating costs for businesses

It is to be hoped that the BID will act as the catalyst that stimulates the regeneration of Northampton’s town centre.

“BIDs are proving to be of significant benefit to town and city centres across the country, and their positive impact is borne out by the 100% track record of renewal ballots” - British BIDs 2010

The BID for Northampton town centre runs for five years from 1st January 2011 and covers the area shown in the Home Page.

Following a successful vote by the businesses within our town centre, a not for profit company was set up. These arrangements are governed by the Company’s Articles of Association and are lodged with Companies House. The BID company has a board of directors made up of representatives from all sectors and sizes of BID levy payers.

The BID must be transparent and accountable to the levy payers. It must measure the performance and impact of the BID through a health check process, business surveys, a 360 degree review and reporting to an Annual General Meeting.

A management team runs the day to day operations of the BID and reports back to the BID board.

It is important that the activities of the BID represent added value over and above the public services already provided in the BID area. For this reason, Baseline Agreements exist between the BID and Northampton Borough Council which clearly define the level of services provided by the Council.

There is an Operating Agreement between the BID and Northampton Borough Council that defines the contractual agreements including the collection and enforcement of the BID levy.

The BID website is

The BID levy is mandatory and enforceable on all defined ratepayers.

The rules for the BID levy are as follows:

  • The levy was fixed at 1% of rateable value using the 2010 rating list as at 1st January 2011.
  • The term of the BID is for a period of 5 years from 1st January 2011.
  • The BID levy is applied to all ratepayers with a rateable value of 15,000 or more.
  • All new hereditaments entering the rating list after 1st January 2011 will be levied at 1% and added to the prevailing list.
  • All hereditaments with charitable status and in receipt of mandatory charitable relief are fully exempt from the BID levy.
  • Shopping centre tenants paying a service charge are given a 25% discount on the levy rate.
  • When a hereditament is empty, the eligible ratepayer is liable for the BID levy with no void period, except in the case of listed buildings which are exempt.
  • The BID board will agree on an annual basis whether the levy will assume a growth rate for inflation of up to 3%, and if so this will be applied in the following financial year.
  • There is no VAT charged on the BID levy.

As stated, a levy of 1% is applied to the rateable value of each defined ratepayer in the BID area with a rateable value of 15,000 or more.

As there are approximately 550 of these, it was expected to raise in the region of 400,000 per year. In reality it turned out to be nearer 250,000 after taking into account non-payments.

The levy income is collected by The Northampton Borough Council and placed into a ring-fenced BID Revenue Account. These funds are regularly transferred to the BID Company.

Partner organisations will support the BID by providing financial contributions and grants.

In addition, services including event delivery, technical guidance/advice and administrative back up will be provided to the value of at least 60,000 per annum in cash and/or in-kind.

It is also hoped to gain annual contributions from major commercial players who trade outside the town centre, but who have a vested interest in seeing it’s regeneration.

BID  REVIEW - 2011 & 2012.
The Bid was incorporated on 7/12/10, when it elected for the financial year to run from April 1st – March 31st.

The first accounting period was therefore an anomaly and ran from 7/12/10 till 31/3/12.

The income for this period was 366,000.

The direct expenditure was 220,000.

The administrative expenditure was 66,000.

The operating surplus carried forward was 80,000.

If required, further details of this set of accounts are available via

BID involvement achieved the following:

  • Encouragement for members to be involved in “Northampton in Bloom” which takes part from early June till the end of September.
  • 120 members were involved with wall mounted Xmas trees and lights.
  • “Northampton by the Sea” saw a beach created on the Market Square, which encouraged families from across the county to visit the town centre.
  • Some 16K of sponsorship of the 2012 “Northampton Music Festival” on the Market Square which created a highlight in the calendar.
  • Abington Street played host to the national open-air exhibition, “Tarnished Earth”.
  • The introduction of a loyalty card scheme.
  • An introduction to vinyl window displays on vacant shops, making them more attractive. There was a plan to increase this activity.
  • The provision of 2 additional PCSOs for Christmas and the New Year.
  • A contribution to the new events website – Love Northampton.
  • The negotiation of advantageous rates with A Day Recycling Group Ltd for all businesses within the BID area.
  • The negotiation of advantageous rates with independent insurance broker Bluefin.
  • The sponsorship of 2 town centre rangers.
  • Involvement with Go Safari Northampton.
  • The Discover Northampton initiative.
  • The encouragement of the ice skating rink on the Market Square.

“Watchdog” observations, suggestions and feedback for the first 2 years of the BID included the following:

  • It is essential to have a database of all levy payers for communication purposes.
  • All levy payers should receive a brief, bullet point, 3 monthly “BID Bulletin” which informs them of expenditure, achievements, and canvasses opinions on crucial issues, such as the building of student accommodation on St. John’s surface car park.
  • As about half the life of the BID has now transpired (it runs for 5 years from 1/1/11), it is essential that the directors make sure that the shareholders (levy payers), are impressed enough by the expenditure of their levy, that they vote for the BID arrangement to be renewed for a second 5 year term. The BID bulletin should help achieve shareholder satisfaction.
  • Shareholders may understandably be antagonistic to any expenditure of BID money to projects that are located outside the BID area. An exception to this would be the financial support given to the skate-board facility at Midsummer Meadow, because it encouraged skate-boarders to leave the town centre.
  • The ice-skating facility on the market square, around Xmas 2012, was not a great success from the operators point of view. A BID bulletin could have promoted the facility, and pointed out the collateral benefits for other traders.
  • Car parking is still a huge problem in most people’s eyes, and should be addressed by the BID directors. There are some crazy anomalies, such as St. Peter’s Way car park and Commercial Street car park having different tariffs despite being connected. There are also differences between Upper Mounts car park and Campbell Square cark park despite only being separated by a small side road. These issues should be fought by the BID directors to make parking more user friendly.
  • Vehicular access into the town centre is still confusing for more than 95% of the town population, and that includes the BID shareholders. The entry routes should be promoted via the BID Bulletin to the shareholders, who in turn should disseminate the information to their customers. This information could also be promoted by The Chron to those people who are steering clear of the centre because of the ease with which they can park at retail parks.
  • Watchdog continues to recommend that the BID’s working committees should be more relevant to the shareholders so that they know who to lobby on various issues. The suggestion is that they should be headed:   Strategy / Finance and Administration / Marketing and Promotion / Planning and Aesthetics / Parking and Access / Security.
  • Watchdog remains convinced that the BID should primarily be a LOBBYING MACHINE which addresses the deep concerns of levy payers. It’s no good spending money on marketing and promotion if there is nothing to market and promote!!!

BID REVIEW FOR 2013 & 2014.
Watchdog, despite being interested, wasn’t too sure if anything happened during this period other than the continued and valuable sponsorship of the successful annual Music Festival.

There seemed to be a lot of jargon about partnerships, stakeholders and working together, but virtually no attention to the “concerns” expressed by “Watchdog”.


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