Welcome to your fortnightly update from the Newbury BID team, including the latest news from the business community, Newbury Town Council, West Berkshire Council, Thames Valley Police, and the Government. Look out for actions highlighted below!
CEO Update from Melissa
Footfall was up 13.2% last week on the previous week, which compares positively to the average week-on-week increase of 6% seen across UK high streets. Had consumer confidence not taken a hit due to the move to Plan B, I think Newbury would have seen a continuation from November with footfall all-but matching that of the same period in 2019. Instead, footfall so far in December is tracking at a respectable 87.5% of December 2019, peaking at over 175,000 last week for the first time since w/c 16th December 2019. The average high street in the UK is tracking at around 80% of 2019 this month, so yet again Newbury is outperforming many other towns and cities.
Despite this, I know from conversations with business owners, particularly those in the Hospitality sector, that Covid-19 has dealt them a devastating blow yet again this Christmas. Businesses are losing tens of thousands of pounds in revenue this month compared to December 2019, and the new Government grants of up to £6,000 are barely a drop in the ocean. Continued staffing issued have caused some venues to close early for Christmas, and some can’t be sure they will still be trading into 2022. It is so sad that we are in this situation nearly two years after the pandemic started to affect our lives.
We have joined together with more than 100 other BIDs in England, along with UK Hospitality, British BIDs, The BID Foundation, and the High Streets Task Force, to call on the Government for more support for hard-hit sectors. You’ll see more about this in Alison and Kirsty’s updates below.
We wait to see what, if any, additional restrictions the Government will announce for England post-Christmas. We can only hope for more certainty and stability in 2022, and the opportunity to truly recover and move forward as a town centre.
Our 5-year Business Plan is almost finished and will be available on our website by Monday 10th January, which is the date a Notice of Ballot will be sent out to each of you. A printed copy of the Business Plan will be included with your ballot papers, which are due to be distributed on Thursday 27th January.
We are very excited about the Business Plan we’ve put together following consultation, and we want to work with you all to take Newbury to the next level over the coming 5 years. There’s a huge job to do to help Newbury recover from the effects of the pandemic, and it’s so important that the business community has a voice and a role in this work.
Without the BID, there will be no organisation marketing Newbury as a visitor and business destination; the Visit Newbury brand, website, social media, and PR will disappear, and popular events such as the Christmas Lights Switch-On will also disappear (as well as the lights themselves!). There will be no-one to manage the town centre CCTV or BusinessWatch schemes; no access to free or discounted shared business services and initiatives; and no-one to lobby on behalf of the business community at a strategic level to influence the future of Newbury town centre.
There is no ‘Plan B’. If the BID levy funding goes, no other organisation will fund or manage this work, and Newbury will get left behind the 330+ other towns, cities, and places in the UK which operate a Business Improvement District. Many of these BIDs have had hugely successful ballot renewals in 2021, with businesses up and down the country understanding and appreciating the benefits being within a BID brings.
We know for many businesses, in the short-term, what’s most important is to minimise costs and manage cashflow. It has been, and continues to be, about survival. It’s difficult, almost impossible for some, to think about long-term plans. This is completely understandable given the uncertainty and turmoil of the past two years, and my heart goes out to every single business owner and leader who is fighting to keep their business alive and their staff employed.
My personal view, 18 months into this role, is that Newbury would be a significantly poorer place without the BID. After arriving in June 2020 open-minded, I’ve had my ups and downs with the business model, and at times I’ve really struggled with how it is financed. One thing I am absolutely certain of though is that the work we do is vital in helping to create a vibrant place for people to live, work, and visit, and a vibrant trading environment for people to do business. Town centres have to be marketed, they have to be cared for, and they have to provide a positive and inclusive experience for all. With changing human behaviours, we can no longer expect a high street to be busy without someone taking responsibility for raising its profile and ensuring the reality lives up to the shiny advertising.
The fact is that without funding from you, our levy paying businesses, no-one will take responsibility for these things, and no-one will pay for them. The long-term outlook for our town would be bleak and that is something, as a local, that I would be very sad to see.
I would love to speak with you in the New Year if you are unsure how to vote or why to vote. Please do get in touch.
And finally...Merry Christmas from us all at the BID!
Operations Update from Alison
I’m super excited to confirm that following the appointment of our new CCTV supplier Scion for the town centre, the installation has been completed and the new CCTV is up and running and it looks fantastic! You have hopefully seen the new Contractor around town this week installing the new cameras in their cherry picker. Despite some challenges (e.g., builders cutting through the main power cable which almost delayed the launch and gave me a meltdown!), we were able to successfully navigate around this and get a solution in-place to ensure it is operational ahead of Christmas!
The BID agreed back in 2017 to take up on the management of the CCTV on the understanding that it would be cost neutral for the businesses and funding would be provided by Thames Valley Police and Newbury Town Council. The system we inherited at the time was out of date so since joining the BID last year, I have worked hard to improve the system and by transferring over to a Wi-Fi based system, we have not only got a fit for purpose system finally but have also made significant cost reductions so have been able to secure funding for the CCTV contract for the next 3 years which is amazing news for the town centre!
I wish to personally thank Richard Farley from the Kennet Centre for all his support and hard work on this and also Thames Valley Police and Newbury Town Council for continuing to fund the CCTV! Please look out for our Press Release in the New Year…
ACTION: I shall start planning for next year’s events and activities in January/February (on the basis that we will get re-voted in again and be here post-June 2022 otherwise say goodbye to events!) so please do get in touch with any ideas, suggestions or collaborative partnership initiatives!
Markets & Free Stalls Updates
This week I have held debriefs with both LSD for the recent Victorian Christmas Fayre and with Aarde Events for the recent Vegan Market
ACTION: The monthly Artisan Market will be back on Sunday 30th January and Sunday 27th February – we have 2 free stalls at each market so if you are interested, please let me know ASAP!
ACTION: Following its success on Sunday 21st November, the Vegan Market will be back on Sunday 20th February, and I have 2 free stalls so let me know if you are interested.
Kirsty will be doing a big push on Veganuary month in January so please let us know ASAP any Vegan offers you would like us to promote for you! The beautiful Vegan Map we produced recently will also be further distributed to many of you in January!
For those on the free cardboard collection scheme, Bri will next collect the cardboard on Wednesday 5th January between 9am – 2pm so please leave out before 9am. If you are interested in joining this FREE scheme, please contact me directly! There will be NO cardboard collection next week on Wednesday 29th December as we will be having some well-earned rest!
BusinessWatch Crime Reduction Scheme
The next PubWatch meeting will be on Wednesday 12th January at 10am.
The next Shopsafe meeting will be in January – date TBC in the New Year.
Hospitality & Leisure Update
I arranged a meeting with local MP Laura Farris earlier this week for the Hospitality sector to raise our concerns and issues with her first-hand regarding the devastating impact that Covid has had on this sector. The news of the latest omicron variant resulted in a devastating reduction in sales and Christmas party cancellations. The Hospitality sector has been one of the hardest hit sectors yet has worked tirelessly to ensure that it is one of the safest sectors during this pandemic.
Following the meeting, the Chancellor announced the £1billion support package for Hospitality. Whilst this is literally just a drop in the ocean and will not be the lifeline that many of you desperately need in order for your business to survive, we are continuing to work closely with other BIDs nationally, British BIDs, The BID Foundation, and the High Streets Task Force and will continue to push for further economic support.
Many thanks to Warwick at The Catherine Wheel, Pete at The Newbury, Ian at Cow & Cask, James at Cross Keys, George at Chequers Hotel, Kamal at Gurkha Chef, and Arif at Sushi Makhi for attending and getting their views across so well!
We are awaiting further guidance from West Berkshire Council for these grants and once they update us, we will of course let you know.
Marketing Update from Kirsty
Happy Christmas, all! I am out of office from 23rd December – 4th January, and so if you need to get in touch about anything, please email me and I will respond on my return to work. It would be great to hear from any of you who may have New Year offers, or anything you could share with a wellbeing and / or home interiors focus, as I will be producing content on this in the New Year.
As you all know, our BID Ballot renewal is imminent and I have been starting to implement our Marketing and Communications Strategy. Namely getting the relevant webpages up and running and coming up with an initial design for the assets for our social media and webpages, as below (you may well have noticed the new banner above on our webpage, too!).
To find out all there is to know about your BID Ballot, a timeline overview, and to watch a really useful video that explains the ballot process, please click here to view the new webpage. If you’re interested in supporting us through providing a testimonial quote or 30-second (max) video, please get in touch with me. Click here to see our new Term 3 BID Supporter webpage.
NEW Visit Newbury Loves Local newsletter– December Edition
You can read our December newsletter here, and if you haven’t already, please hit ‘SUBSCRIBE‘ in the top left hand corner to join our mailing list. This month’s newsletter focused largely on promoting the hospitality sector, an industry which we all know is suffering immensely, by advertising local hospitality venues for Christmas and NYE plans. It was also important to continue to spread a shop local message in the final countdown to Christmas, providing last minute shoppers with a list of retailers and their Christmas opening hours until the New Year.
You may well have heard of the #BoosterforBusinesses movement led by Croydon BID for which we are joining the movement to put pressure on Government for more business rates relief and support for the hospitality sector. Please click here to read the press release I issued to local and regional media this week, alongside this letter to the Prime Minister which I sent to all the Councillors, local authority CEO’s and MPs in the region.
This week I have also worked on proofing and making any final tweaks to Melissa’s fantastic 36-page Business Plan, I’ve scheduled all social media for the Christmas holidays to keep our Visit Newbury profiles active and growing, and have been working on providing a new BID map for the Business Plan, as well as collating data from various sources for our Victorian Christmas Fayre footfall figures.
Projects Update from Bri
Business Community Updates & Shout Outs
Are you planning on voting ‘YES!’ to a further BID term? If so and you would be happy to provide a quote in favour for the BID remaining in situ for 2022-2027, please get in touch with us!
Newbury Town Council Update
Mayor's Festive Afternoon Tea a Success!
The Mayor of Newbury hosted a Festive Afternoon Tea on Thursday 16th December. Members of the community over the age of 75 years old were invited to join the celebrations at St Nicolas Church Hall. You can read the full press release here.
West Berkshire Council Update
New Business Grants scheme - December 2021
The Government has released initial information on a new £1billion Business Grants scheme to support businesses that have been impacted by the Omicron variant, the ongoing impact of staff absences due to Covid, and lower consumer demand. To find out more about what WBC is doing, and how you can claim, click here.
Rough Sleepers across West Berkshire at an all-time low
The number of rough sleepers has officially decreased from nine to zero in West Berkshire, which is a result of the great partnership work between the council housing team and homeless charities across the district.
The rough sleeper count was confirmed by an external verifier who reported West Berkshire’s reduction in numbers actually on the streets at that time. You can read the full press release here.
Health and Wellbeing Board Annual Conference - The Next 10 Years - 21 January 2022 – 10am to 12.30
The annual Health and Wellbeing Board Conference is back and everyone is invited to take part. Once again, this will be a virtual conference via Zoom and is open to anyone in West Berkshire who has an interest in health and wellbeing. Book your Conference place here or paste https://tinyurl.com/HWB-conference-2022 into your browser.
Waste Service Changes to Improve Resilience
Like most councils in the UK, WBC has been managing a number of significant challenges to our waste services during the last two years, including the impact of both the nationwide HGV driver shortage and Covid-19. It is likely that these pressures will continue due to the emergence of new Covid-19 variants, a sustained rise in working from home, home delivery purchases and the increase in waste generated over the Christmas holiday period. Click here to read the full press release.
The return of West Berkshire’s Holiday and Food Activity Programme
West Berkshire’s Holiday Activities and Food (HAF) programme is back for the Christmas holidays. After a successful pilot over Easter, we expanded the programme over summer so more young people could take advantage of it. HAF is aimed primarily at children who receive free school meals (FSM). It’s designed to keep them fit and healthy through a range of fun activities.
WBC has now been given more money by the Government to move this programme on so even more children and young people can get involved. Click here to find out how and for the full press release.
Residents' News Bulletin - 22nd December
Covid-19 Newsletter- Inclucing Plan B Guidance
Mental Health Support
Coronavirus Face Covering Posters for Businesses
We have received the following government poster through from WBC. If you would like a digital copy of this to print for your store or to upload to your website, please click here. Do also let us know if you would like physical copies and we will do what we can to arrange these for you with WBC. We expect new assets in line with the new Plan B guidance to be sent through shortly.
- National flu and COVID-19 surveillance reports published – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)
- Latest REACT-1 findings show Omicron infections rising fast, while highlighting success of vaccination programmes – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)
- Emergency funding available for arts, culture and heritage doubled to £60 million to tackle impact of Omicron – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)
- A message to the private security industry for Christmas 2021 – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)
- Five zero-budget ways to boost your data quality culture – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)
- Government sets clear ambition to close gender health gap – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)
- UK hits 30 million boosters as push continues to Get Boosted Now – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)
- JCVI issues new vaccination advice for children and young people – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)
- Self-isolation for COVID-19 cases reduced from 10 to 7 days following negative LFD tests – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)
- Test and Trace services continue over the festive period – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)
- Small businesses deliver a green Christmas this festive season – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)
- CMA action frees leaseholders from costly contract terms – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)
- £1 billion in support for businesses most impacted by Omicron across the UK – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)
- HMRC urges businesses to prepare for January customs changes – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)
- Letters to businesses about importing and exporting goods between Great Britain and the EU – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)
- Boost for high streets and businesses as markets and outdoor marquees allowed permanently – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)
- How to protect yourself and others: guidance for door supervisors – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)
- Crackdown on directors who dissolve companies to evade debts – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)
- Outdoor weddings and civil partnerships consultation launched – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)
- Red tape cut to reduce cost of importing wine to the UK from 1 January – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)
- Don’t forget to declare COVID-19 grants on your tax return – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)
Events, Resources & Industry News
Business support during the COVID-19 crisis is available from the following organisations:
- West Berkshire Council – COVID-19 information for businesses – https://info.westberks.gov.uk/coronavirus-business
- Public Protection Partnership – advice and support on COVID guidelines and regulations – https://publicprotectionpartnership.org.uk/covid-19/
- Business Growth Hub – free COVID advice and support for businesses in Berkshire – https://www.berkshirebusinesshub.co.uk/
- Government – summary of COVID support available for businesses – https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus/business-support