BOSTON BID VOTE: Boss says traders still need BID...but admits it fell short of aims

Niall Armstrong of Boston BID
Niall Armstrong of Boston BID

Boston needs a BID to keep up with its rivals according to the body’s boss, who admits that it fell short of its ambitious aims last time.

Boston BID manager Niall Armstrong defended the organisation’s record in the past five years, and says the town’s traders need to keep their ‘voice’.

He told The Standard: “When Mary Portas was doing her review she found that even towns that had a poor performing BID were doing better than towns that didn’t have one.

“King’s Lynn are desperate for one, Sleaford didn’t get back in but I think they are now regretting it.

“You have got to recognise that the council is getting cut back and back and back. I’m not saying the BID should replace councils but it is businesses’ opportunity to have an organisation that can speak for them and hopefully have more weight.”

He added that the levy effectively meant smaller traders were able to share some of the profits of the town’s big retail chains.

He stressed that ‘probably 40 per cent’ of traders pay less than £2 a week for BID.

Voting starts tomorrow (Thursday), running as a postal ballot until October 31.

Mr Armstrong admits that BID was not able to meet its wish to attract £650,000 outside cash, falling at least £350,000 short.

He said: “We did not meet that objective but there are mitigating circumstances in that the BID business plan was prepared as the time when the economic climate was quite buoyant. When BID came in the economic downturn and austerity measures came in and closed a lot of the access to external funding.”

This time the business plan spells out aims to keep on Boston’s Town Rangers, promote Boston outside of the area to boost tourism and run events throughout the year.

He said the rangers are popular and would not be affordable for the town without the BID levy money and stressed that they offer a different service from the police, offering assistance to visitors as well as reporting issues such as crime and littering to the relative authorities, acting as ‘eyes and ears’.

He also said BID has contributed ‘in kind’ through things such as picking up litter.

Tourism ideas include distributing marketing material about Boston to towns and cities outside the area and the possible development of a mobile phone app that people can download before visiting the town.

The BID drew criticism when members lost £10,000 spent on the Boston Beat music event when it had to be called off last summer due to the wet weather with no insurance in place to recover the cash.

Mr Armstrong said: “That was really unfortunate. I don’t think anybody could forsee what the weather was going to be like. We will look at events – we have already got the Christmas market which will be a reasonably big event but we might concentrate on smaller events.”

He refused to be drawn on how he believes the vote will go, but said: “We have gained a favourable impression of how it will go.

“I think there’s a lot of support out there that we possibly weren’t aware of.”