Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Boston Business “Improvement” District directors are girding their loins for the battle which they hope will see their lacklustre organisation re-elected for a second five-year term – although from what we have learned, they are more likely to end up with their trousers around their ankles than anything else.
Such a position would be a familiar one where the BID is concerned.
Its shortcomings over the past four and a bit years are well known to all our regular readers.
Its signal failure to organise a booze-up in a brewery …
Its inability to find the matched funding that was promised as part of its raison d'être
Its broken promises to keep members informed about the decisions of the board of directors …
Whilst the latter was a pledge of improved communication that has never been delivered, the board meeting of 22nd January went even further, declaring: “All the directors present agreed that any discussions that took place within a board meeting were confidential and information should not be released to the public until such time as plans had been fully formulated and the board had agreed to release the information.”
In other words, we’ll only tell the levy payers what we’re doing once it’s a fait accompli.
So, how does the BID plan to win the hearts and minds of the businesses that are forced to pay 1% of their business rates in a compulsory levy, and who are dragged to court by Boston Borough Council if they refuse?
The BID – which has never shown much in the way of imagination or breadth of ideas since it started in December 2008 – seems to think that its main strength, and therefore best chance of survival, lies with the Town Rangers.
When the BID first set up shop, the ranger service was an in-house responsibility.
But some while ago the job was passed to a local company called Taylored Security Services, whose managing director, Derek Taylor, is also a member of the board of Boston BID.
Back in the good old days when the BID was in the business of telling the people it represented what it was doing, a pie chart of its £146,000 income reported that 41% was spent on the rangers. The next largest outgoing was 23% on  “marketing/events/promotion and projects” whilst third on the list was 18% on the manager’s salary.
That’s almost £60,000, £33,500 and £26,000 respectively. After that, a further 14% - that’s £20,000 disappeared on “overheads.”
However you look at it, that’s a pretty top heavy – almost £140,000 of a budget of £146,000 for a manager, and his office to employ a handful of low-level security staff.
Now, of course, that has changed, and the manager’s salary does not cover responsibility for the rangers – who are employed by a company run by another director.
Aside from keeping the rangers, what other big ideas is the BID planning to tempt local businesses to sign up for further five years of ineptitude?
At present, premises with a rateable value of less than £5,000 have been charged a minimum levy of £50.
The BID has discovered that these businesses in this range make waves at levy collection time,  and that a large number “are anti-BID.”
So, the plan is to raise the threshold from £1,000 to £5,000, which will reduce income by £6,000 to £160,000 – but which the BID seems to think is worthwhile to ditch a load of ne’er-do-wells.
The BID also plans a personal approach to canvass businesses face to face. This is because “historically we have found that posted information, electronic information and newsletters have had limited success in raising the BID profile.”
It doesn’t appear to have crossed anyone’s mind that the last “quarterly” newsletter on the BID website was posted a year ago; that the most recent “update” was the news of the failure to obtain Portas Pilot status in July last year; the latest “what’s on” news was about the 2012 Christmas market and was posted in November that year, and the last download of board meeting minutes was on 17th January last year.
Could that perhaps account for the “limited success” in raising the BID profile?
There are also plans to  “reflect” on what has been successful and what has not worked  and possibly remove services that are “not valued or recognised.”
That could turn out to be one hell of a list!
So the bottom line seems to be to try to shed the trouble makers by marginalising them, and pay a manager to manage an organisation whose prime role is to pay another BID director to provide a private security service.
The aim is to stage the ballot in September – with an initial budget £10,000 that could rise to £15,000 if needed.
Hands up if you’re impressed!
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Our former blog is archived at: http://bostoneyelincolnshire.blogspot.com

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