Weekly COVID-19 Communications Roundup
W/C 30th March 2020

This is the second in our series of TWTBbWTW, covering week commencing 30th March 2020. It included April 1st, much less recognised this year by BIDs for jokes and pranks, and more as being the end of one financial year and the start of a new, much more uncertain, period.

Historically, most BIDs have been able to confidently produce budgets on the basis of collecting somewhere between 90% and 100% of their billed levy. In support of the industry, Bb continues to run a series of Q&A sessions, each with experts giving practical advice. One of the most sought after – probably not surprisingly – has focussed upon coping with the prospect of reduced levels of income, re-working of budgets, turning budgets into cashflow forecasts and what anyone is legally obliged to do if their projections show that the coffers will run dry. For some BID Managers, the need is to engage the Board in the budgeting and cash forecasting; for others, who are also Directors of the BID Company, the responsibilities are quite different.

Some BIDs have excellent financial protection via their Operating Agreements with the local authority; for others, though, issues of longevity, even solvency, prevail. The expert advice was that now is not a time for panic. It is a time for cool heads, a practical, evidence-led approach, and for increased communication with levy payers, the council and, most importantly, the BID Board which, ultimately, has responsibility for budgeting, financial oversight and solvent trading.

Bb will remain on call to assist everyone through this period of greatest need.

The week’s other Q&A sessions were, by comparison, slightly less stressful. They covered how to furlough (now, surely, the best-known new word of 2020 and worth upwards of 19 points at Scrabble) and solutions for getting the best from digital marketing at a time when consumers have more time on their hands to browse.

Talking of furloughing, some might have thought that Street Rangers or Ambassadors might be the first team that a BID might stand down. Yet, a fast-emerging trend is for them to be retained as ‘key workers’ via a re-engineering of their roles to become the eyes and ears of the BID area, with a special focus upon the safety and security of levy payers’ staff and premises.

A special ‘shout-out’ is due to BIDs like Croydon, who have marshalled support for local NHS staff from their businesses including free car parking, food supplies and overnight stays in hotels.

The new Bb Advisory Board, chaired by Nic Durston of South Bank BID, met ‘virtually’ this week and will continue to do so more frequently throughout the crisis. The strategy that they laid out for the Bb team was, first and foremost, to continue (and increase where we need to) the practical advice to BIDs through the technical support helpline, email updates, webinars, podcasts, the Q&A sessions, and one-to-one advice. Secondly, it was to ensure a balance in communications between coping with the negative effects placed upon the industry and the other positive and heartening stories that are, nonetheless, in evidence in even greater number. Then, thirdly, it was to be ready to provide practical advice and support throughout what might be a slower than forecast recovery phase.

No-one knows with any certainty how long this period of disruption will last or how damaging it might be to the economies of the areas that our BIDs cover. What is certain is that the recovery period after the battle against COVID-19 has been won will be a time when BIDs are needed more than ever in high streets, industrial estates, tourism zones and commercial areas up and down the country.

We will leave you this week with a quotation from the former US President, John. F. Kennedy when reflecting upon the lessons to be learned from the Cuban Missile Crisis. He said:

“…..the Chinese use two brush strokes to write the word ‘crisis.’ One stands for danger; the other for opportunity. In a crisis, be aware of the danger, but recognise the opportunity.”  

The ‘opportunity’ that exists is for BIDs to be prepared to play a unique and crucial role in the recovery phase that will follow this crisis. The ‘danger’ is that, as an industry, we are not fully using this time to prepare and so to be ready for the task that will, inevitably, lie ahead.

To everyone, please stay in close contact with us and keep safe whilst continuing to follow the government guidelines.


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