This was the week when we all learned a lot more about the letter ‘R’. Until now, it had been somewhat hidden as only the 18th letter of the English alphabet. In common parlance it had already firmly established it as the 8th most used letter, but it was the outbreak of COVID-19 that saw it shoot to fame. Following a trend that had grown in popularity throughout the week, the Prime Minister took to our screens yesterday to base the country’s move away from lockdown on it also. Apparently, we will soon not be hearing about ‘R’ not just on a national scale but at a localised level too. Give it a few weeks, the Prime Minister proclaimed on Sunday, and we should all know the ‘R’ factor in our towns better than we know the ages of our children or the names of our family members.
It wasn’t just the study of orthography (letters) that occupied the minds of BID managers last week. Mathematics was called upon as the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government requested the amount of BID levy for the previous and current (or next) year from each BID in order that they could calculate the exact amount of grant due to them from the BID Resilience Fund. Bb ran a series of over-subscribed webinars to explain to colleagues how the Fund would work.
BID teams could have been excused for being shell-shocked by a battering from letters and numbers. Yet, time was found to begin to focus on the resumption of the economy after COVID-19. On Thursday, Cornwall Council justifiably hit the headlines after confirming a £600,000 loan to ensure that its 8 BIDs are ready to go when their local economies need them – other councils should take note! The New West End Company published its ‘reopening plan’ which included a commitment to a raft of measures including social distancing floor stickers, additional bike parks, increased signage and increased deep-cleans.
So, what of Boris’ much anticipated speech to the nation on Sunday. If one could summarise the media reviews, you might say they were ‘lukewarm’ at best. But, in what was trailed as being a ‘roadmap’ there were some clear signposts for the BID community. Many more industrial BIDs will see their levy payers starting work again this week; town and city centre BIDs could see shops reopening in July; and, for those within the leisure and hospitality sector, activity might resume in July.
That brings us back to ‘R’. Having waited for the Prime Minister’s roadmap guidance, British BIDs will today launch its new 3R Toolkit aimed at assisting BIDs in forward planning for the reopening of town and city centres. More news to follow….but, fair to say, we will be hearing a great deal more about the letter ‘R’ in the coming days and weeks.