Now is the right time for Bradford BID

Say it quietly, but good times could be just around the corner at Odsal. The Bradford Bulls are being talked about for the right reasons again as they eye promotion to the Championship. The city is backing their bid for rugby league glory and there’s optimism at their home ground. Everyone’s fingers are crossed.

Andrew Chalmers, chairman and co-owner of the Bulls, has done a great rebuilding job. Despite his packed schedule, he recently took time to urge Bradford city centre businesses and organisations to get behind another major bid in the city this autumn.

The Business Improvement District (BID) is an ambitious scheme to raise and invest £2.5m in the city centre in the next five years. Businesses and organisations in the BID area would pay a small levy which would be pooled and invested in specific projects to deliver tangible, sustained improvements in the centre. Chalmers is backing the Bradford BID because investment in the city is good for the Bulls, and vice-versa.

A levy of up to 1.25 per cent is being considered to support four so-called ‘pillars’ – safe, clean, alive and promoted – to ensure security and safety in the city; make it clean and welcoming, encourage more events and entertainment on the streets; and promote the centre properly. Investments would be targeted to make Bradford more vibrant and attractive to drive footfall, spending and investment and support organisations and businesses.

There are more than 300 BIDs currently running the UK. Readers of The Yorkshire Post will probably know that BIDs have been set up in locations as varied as Leeds, Keighley, York and Halifax. But it would be wrong to see this BID as simply a case of ‘Now it’s Bradford’s turn’. Every town and city has its own unique history, needs and stages of development.

A BID in Bradford might have been put together before now, but, as chair of the Bradford Economic Partnership, I’m clear that now is the right time. A huge amount of work has gone into understanding the opportunities – and challenges – facing Bradford and we’ve drawn up a clear plan – the Economic Strategy for Bradford District 2018 to 2030 – to help the city achieve its incredible potential for the benefit of both Bradford and the North more widely. The BID is one part of a bigger picture and plan.

But it’s vital that we go down this road with our eyes open. Let’s be honest – since they were introduced in 2004, not all of BIDs have been resounding successes. Businesses in some BID towns and cities have complained that they are not transparent and that bigger companies have more of a say in how the money raised is spent.

But the team behind the Bradford BID has done its homework and taken the learning of what’s worked and what’s not elsewhere. This BID proposal was drawn up after extensive consultation with Bradford’s businesses and it’s custom-made for the city’s needs.

There also plenty of BID success stories. A House of Commons paper last year showed that the main benefits of BIDs are that businesses get to decide what they want for the area; that they have a voice in issues in the area; and that money raised through the BID can only be invested in the BID area. There’s also evidence of benefits for business including increased footfall, better promotion and networking opportunities.

We need to be open to new ways to regenerate and improve the centre and the BID does this by bringing local authorities, businesses and organisations together. Amazing things can happen when everyone’s noses are pointed in the same direction.

The BID won’t happen by itself. More than 630 city centre businesses and organisations need to vote to realise this ambition. Voting opened on September 13 and ends on October 11. If you’re one of the number, get out and vote.

One of Bradford’s genuine strengths is its close-knit business community. If the BID goes ahead and there are any bumps in the road, folk can sit down and sort them out.

So the next few weeks promise to be exciting. The Bulls have given themselves a chance of promotion thanks to hard work and everyone at the club buying into the vision. I hope that city businesses will also buy into the BID vision and vote ‘Yes’. If both bids succeed, it will be a great boost for the city. My fingers are crossed.

  • Dave Baldwin is chairman of Bradford Economic Partnership and chief executive of Burnley Football Club

Businesses have duty to give back to community

When Amazon’s stock market value hit $1 trillion last month, you might have expected a chorus of praise. But as some celebrated its historic achievement in joining Apple in the $1 trillion business club, others complained about its dominance and voiced concern about its workers’ rights and wages. For all its success, Amazon gets the bad headlines too.

Every company comes in for criticism at some point. It comes with the territory for bosses making tough decisions about hiring and firing and for some companies perceived to be putting profits above all else. If the criticism is deserved, you take it on the chin.

But many businesses make under-appreciated contributions to society through providing meaningful employment, supporting the economy and operating responsibly. A large and growing number also give something back by doing good work in their communities.

This summer, Bradford accountancy group Naylor Wintersgill signed up to the Give Bradford 100 Club. This fantastic scheme enables individuals and businesses to support the region’s disadvantaged communities through a £1,000 annual membership fee. 100 Club members include Leeds Bradford Airport, Yorkshire Building Society and individuals including Nick Garthwaite, President of Bradford Chamber of Commerce, and Kersten England, chief executive of Bradford Council.

At a time when the corporate sector is closely scrutinised, more companies need to show heart and shout about their good work. Schemes like the 100 Club let them do their bit and demonstrate their commitment.

Giving something back is nothing new: walk around Bradford and look at the architectural legacy of industrial giants like Titus Salt and Samuel Lister. I would love to see a new generation of philanthropists putting up stunning buildings in my home city. But there are more realistic ways to help.

There’s a fancy name for a company doing its bit for society: Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). Many companies will already be doing CSR without really realising it. It ranges from simple things like charity fundraisers in the office and bosses letting staff take regular time off to lend a hand to a charity or a community scheme. I’ve seen the camaraderie among staff that this brings out. CSR really takes off when it becomes part of the way a business operates and when it forms genuine connection with its community.

Larger companies have more complex, ambitious CSR agendas. Provident Financial works with Participate Projects, a local charity which provides support and advice to third sector organisations. Provident supports cultural life by backing the Bradford Literature Festival. Supermarket giant Morrisons’s CSR activity last year included supporting a national charity to redistribute meals to those in need and working with 400 community groups to redistribute more than 3.4 million surplus food products.

You may have heard of ‘Raising the Bar’, a scheme backed by West and North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce, which celebrates the work that companies do in the community. At its glittering awards ceremony last year, the Broadway Shopping Centre won in the economy category for bringing new business to the city and law firm Gordons won in the education category for its apprenticeship scheme. The 2018 awards ceremony is in November – if your firm does good in the community, consider an application.

Yorkshire Building Society deserves an honourable mention. In May, it won the Corporate Social Responsibility Team of the Year category at this year’s Third Sector Business Charity Awards. The society delivers financial literacy programmes in Yorkshire’s schools, supports local communities as well as a project which helps homeless young people move to their own homes.

It’s great that Naylor Wintersgill has joined the 100 Club, although I’m not surprised. After all, it’s in keeping with how it does business: its staff choose a different charity for the firm to support each year; this year they chose Cancer Support Yorkshire.

When the 100 Club launched in November 2017, its aim was to get 100 members to join. Numbers are rising, but more are needed. Companies will always have their critics, but the business community has so many great stories about the good work it does. If we want them to be heard, we need to start shouting about it.

  • Dave Baldwin is chairman of Bradford Economic Partnership and chief executive of Burnley Football Club