Why the Town & City Management Industry is One Family and Why ATCM will take the Industry Forward

The debate regarding BIDs representation in England continues. Following the recent Rocket Science report, commissioned by English BIDs to establish what they want from a BIDs industry body, a specification has now been issued setting out their priorities and requirements. ATCM will be responding positively to the specification the deadline of which is 17 March 2017.

The research undertaken last year by Rocket Science revealed that the three services England’s BIDs value above all others are policy, representation and best practice with 94% of BIDs surveyed, stating that these are the services they want from their membership body. In a SWOT analysis which appears in the same research, Rocket Science identified that ATCM’s strengths in the industry are policy, influence and best practice.

For a number of reasons, ATCM is best placed to provide these core services to BIDs. Here are just some of them:

How ATCM’s Diversity is its Key Asset
It is important to reflect on why ATCM is strong in terms of both its role in supporting BIDs with public policy and supporting BIDs with best practice. We are a collection of BIDs, councils, Town Teams, independent organisations, universities and others that all come together to be the frontrunners for place making. Our shared passion for local commerce and community, whatever sector we come from, makes us powerful.

Policy & Influence: In policy terms, our diversity opens doors. When we talk to politicians, we talk with the authority of the public, private and charitable sectors. It is difficult for parliamentarians to dismiss our suggestions based on a narrow and blind faith in any specific sector. Our recommendations are about making great places and cannot be confused as anything other than objective and neutral, emanating from the multi-sector town and city management industry.
This is why ATCM has achieved the following:

  • We created BIDs - working with Nick Raynsford MP to study BIDs in North America before introducing legislation here, in the UK, in 2004.
  • We successfully lobbied for the creation of PPG6 – the original ‘Town Centres First’ policy.
  • In 2008 we took on Purple Flag, the internationally recognised accreditation scheme for the evening and night-time economy.
  • We coordinated Parliament’s involvement in the Portas Review securing the participation of nearly 200 MPs.
  • We led the Town Teams Programme on behalf of DCLG following the Portas Review.
  • In 2011, our recommendation to appoint a Minister for Town Centres was accepted by PM David Cameron.
  • Through our former Chair to the All-Party Group for Town Centres, Marcus Jones MP, we successfully argued for cuts to business rates and remain committed to long-term rates reform.
  • Also through Marcus Jones MP, we put Property Owner BIDs on the agenda with a series of APPG for Town Centre meetings in Parliament that attracted ministerial interest, one co-hosted by the APPG for Urban Development.

Representation: Let’s not forget a hidden but key role in terms of representation fulfilled by having local government members. Many MPs earn their stripes in local government before moving on to national politics. Even once they have been elected, many retain a close relationship with council in their constituency. Our local government members have been essential in this regard, helping us to develop key relationships with influential MPs. For example, Jim McMahon MP, Chair of the APPG for Town Centres, and Shadow Minister for Local Government and Devolution became known to ATCM through his work as a councillor in the North West, leading on town centre regeneration. Marcus Jones MP, current Minister for Local Government and former Minister for Town Centres became known to us through our relationship with Nuneaton and Bedworth Council. With ATCM, BIDs are benefiting from these links. It is Jim McMahon who is calling for business rates reform to take into account the digital economy. It is Marcus Jones who is bringing forward the bill that includes Property Owner BIDs. Our public sector members allow us the ability to amplify our voice.

Practice: The diversity of our membership extends to benefits for BIDs in best practice. We are a family of place managers delivering positive, local change. BIDs have established themselves as a robust model for excellence in private-sector engagement, but the goals pursued by BIDs are shared by other ATCM members. Where BIDs are focussed on outcomes, they find useful best practice from other town centre schemes such as on business support, boosting footfall, inward investment, making town centres more accessible or hosting great events.
With our network across the UK and Ireland, plus our links to similar organisations across Europe and North America, it would be a regressive step for England’s BIDs to sign up to a body that is England only. Why settle for a small pool from which to learn from when the opportunity to learn from best practice internationally is available?

ATCM’s Evolution and Partnership Working
We are nailing our colours to the mast. We already have more BID members than any other organisation covering the UK and Ireland and we believe, for policy, representation and best practice, only ATCM can provide England’s BIDs with the home they seek. However, we recognise that in some areas we must improve and change to deliver member satisfaction. In other areas, it will be necessary for us to work in partnership to deliver the desired results.

Governance: One issue BIDs are concerned about for their membership body is governance, especially in terms of their representation and transparency. ATCM’s Chairman, Alexander Nicoll, has stepped down and we have appointed an interim Chair, Graham Chase, who will be working with us to bolster our board and review our governance to ensure BIDs have a greater say in shaping ATCM. This will follow key additions to the Advisory Council which will include representation from more BIDs across the whole of the UK and Ireland.

Boosting our Resource for Representation: In order to build on the foundation of our policy work, we are looking at how we can deliver for BIDs, ensuring the industry has the credibility it deserves in Westminster, Whitehall, town halls and levy payer boardrooms. We are keen to do this in conjunction with our members to ensure any additions to the team are fit for purpose.

All of this is alongside our secretariat of the APPG for Town Centres, our representation on the LGA/DCLG business interests group for business rates retention, and links to key national and international trade associations.

Boosting our Resource for Sharing Best Practice: ATCM is also investing in its systems in order to provide better facilities for member networking. Using online technology, we are developing procedures for any member to communicate with any other member in the UK and Ireland at anytime. This is currently being trialled and rolled out across the network.

Working in Partnership: While we are the home for BIDs in terms of policy, representation, and best practice, there is an acute need for the operational support for BIDs at different stages of their lifecycle. There is a need of BID specific guidance, and accreditation. We also admit that ATCM, as the guardians of town and city management, cannot realistically give all important industrial BIDs they support they need but there are opportunities to work in partnership with others which we will explore in the coming months.

As always, ATCM has to listen and respond to its members. As a membership organisation we will be guided by your thoughts. Let us know what you think by contacting Shanaaz Carroll here.