Hampstead's BID gone, now what for the village's businesses?
- Credit: Polly Hancock
With the Hampstead Village Business Improvement District (BID) set to be wound up in August, attention turns to what a future without it will look like.
Last week the BID's board announced, just weeks after revealing its business plan for the next five years, that it would not be holding the ballot necessary to see whether it could continue.
The U-turn comes after campaigning from the Hampstead BID Abolishment group – which was confident that a majority of businesses would have voted against the BID in the summer ballot.
In a statement, the BID's board said: "The impact of the pandemic was reflected in the feedback received in the Perception Analysis, and following consultation with the business community, the Hampstead Village BID Board agreed now is not the right time for the BID to continue.
"It is felt that adding further overheads to local businesses struggling to recover from the global pandemic is not appropriate at the moment."
The BID – first instituted following a ballot in 2016 – is statutorily limited to a five-year term. Businesses in Hampstead with a rateable value over £15,000 have paid a levy on their business rates since then.
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Its management was outsourced to a company called Primera and run by Marcos Gold. The BID said money raised was spent on collective bargaining, promotion of the area, the Hampstead Christmas Festival and other initiatives.
One of the most vocal opponents of the BID has been Hampstead Village Voice publisher Sebastian Wocker, who said: "I'm delighted, the whole thing was a racket from the start. We were just starting to run a really good campaign, but even within the first few weeks it was clear that the BID wasn't going to win. They were going to get a walloping, and it's good they didn't waste any money on a campaign."
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Looking forward, he said: "Now we have got to try and sit down and work out how to come up with how to keep things up. It would be a good idea to get a, most importantly, volunteer-based association together – no one forced to do anything they don't want to do – and take up single issues like rubbish or a Christmas tree when they arise. "
Cllr Oliver Cooper (Con, Hampstead Town) said the BID had made a "courageous and correct" decision.
He added: ""It's come as quite a surprise. It's the culmination of discussions that've occurred amongst Hampstead businesses over the course of the Covid crisis around the burden that they could and should bear at this time.
"The fact they have listened to businesses and tried to take on board concerns is clearly positive."
Cllr Cooper said the most important thing was to encourage businesses back to Hampstead, and said he wants to see Camden Council show a "much broader and deeper engagement" with the area.
He added: "This should be a call to arms for businesses who have shown they can work together. As we are not to have the BID, it would be useful to have a conversation immediately about the future."
Jimmy McGrath, landlord at the King William IV pub, fought the BID in court after refusing to pay the levy. He told the Ham&High: "I'm very very pleased that we've beaten the BID. We're so delighted to have kicked them out."
Not all Hampstead business owners were so pleased. Els Bauer, who sat on the BID's board as co-chair and runs a property consultancy from Hampstead High Street, said she is "very disappointed", adding: ""But we have to listen to our members and that's what we have done. Going forward, I am very sad – there won't be Christmas lights or flower baskets."
"If businesses feel they don't need it we have to respect that – and I wish them the best.
"We have done our best and done an awful lot of work, though I know a lot of people don't see it that way, and we've worked hard for our little community."
In a statement, Camden's business chief Cllr Danny Beales thanked the BID's board for its work and said: "The past year has been extremely difficult for businesses. The decision to cancel the ballot and dissolve the Hampstead Village BID took into account the current situation and needs of Hampstead’s businesses and therefore we respect their decision."