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Business heavyweights have joined a leading voice in European town and city management to encourage Aberdeen businesses to vote in favour of retaining Aberdeen Inspired, the city centre Business Improvement District (BID).

Russell Borthwick, chief executive of Aberdeen and Grampian Chamber of Commerce, Bob Keiller, former CEO of Wood Group and chair of Asco Group, and Ojay McDonald, chief executive of the Association of Town and City Management (ATCM), cautioned against “bemoaning Aberdeen city centre” and urged support for local businesses to secure the region’s economic recovery.

In line with Scotland’s other BIDs, Aberdeen Inspired must ballot the businesses within the BID footprint every five years.  

A  successful ballot on June 24 will ensure it can continue working on behalf of local restaurants, shops, bars, property owners, landlords, shopping centres and all other city centre businesses until at least 2026. 

Adding his support to the Back the BID campaign, Russell Borthwick said city centres like Aberdeen urgently needed help.

“Our city centres have been hard hit by the approach taken by governments to tackling Covid and need all the support they can get to recover. Don’t just bemoan the state of our city centre, get out there today and do something about it. Support our local businesses, put your cash in the tills of shops, bars, restaurants and hotels. It’s needed now more than ever.

“For the last ten years, Aberdeen Inspired – working with other partners like the Chamber - has been delivering innovative and award-winning activities creating a vibrant and appealing location rich in culture and entertainment.

“From the internationally acclaimed Nuart international street art festival to the International Comedy Festival, from Aberdeen Jazz Festival to Restaurant Week, from creating a Christmas Market to gaining purple flag status for a safe night-time economy. And from bringing parklets to our streets to launching the Aberdeen Gift Card, supporting local retailers.

“And there is so much more on the way. But only if Aberdeen Inspired wins a further five-year term in the ballot being held this May and June. So if you are involved in a business in the BID area, make your voice heard and vote to allow the great work to continue. It’s needed now more than ever."

Bob Keiller said Aberdeen Inspired has already had a positive impact on the city and its efforts are now needed more than ever, as local businesses look to recover from the coronavirus pandemic.

“The challenge to Aberdeen city centre, in keeping with so many others, is stark and Covid-19 has only served to accelerate this,” he said. “It is imperative, in the coming months and years, that there is a collaborative approach, at both local and national levels, to build considerable financial stimulus and support to regenerate and repurpose our city centre and make it fit for purpose.

“Cities are vital to the economic wellbeing of this country and Aberdeen Inspired has consistently played its part in leveraging in much needed capital for a wide range of strategies and initiatives that support this cause. I strongly urge levy payers to vote yes in favour of retaining the BID for the city centre.”

The average BID levy equates to around £5 per week. At just 1% of rateable value, it is the lowest in the country and for every £1 of levy collected, at least £2 is invested in the city centre.  

In recognition of the challenging times faced by businesses as a result of the pandemic, the levy in Aberdeen would be reduced by half in the first term (2021-22), dropping to just 0.5% of rateable value for the first year.  

Ojay McDonald said Aberdeen Inspired was a “crucial” part of progressing development in the city centre.

ATCM is a not-for-profit organisation with members across the public, private and third sectors, including key stakeholders and thought leaders who develop and implement shared visions, strategies and action plans for town and city centres throughout the UK and Ireland.

Mr McDonald said: “There is so much in flux at the moment that we can't afford to be without one of the biggest tools for recovery that Aberdeen has in its locker. The BID has been excellent in supporting its businesses with great comms and great support during this crisis, and there's going to be troubled times ahead.

“With the BID we can have strong private sector co-ordination that can take us forward, and this is consistent with the work with many BIDs across the UK and Ireland.

“During the pandemic we've seen some astonishing results of BIDs which have gone through their renewal ballots successfully because businesses recognise the importance of having that private sector facilitator and co-ordinator - that leadership that can help be the voice of businesses and help drive them forward through difficult times.”

He also called on levy payers to ensure a positive result in the forthcoming ballot.

“I'm asking the businesses of Aberdeen to Back the BID this summer, because Aberdeen Inspired is a crucial part of taking forward the urban landscape for Aberdeen,” Mr McDonald added.

Aberdeen Inspired recently launched its Business Plan for 2021-2026, which highlights the priority actions across five themes – helping your business; promoting the city centre; ensuring the city centre is attractive; a safe and welcoming heart of the city; and securing additional funding for projects – that will be rolled out if Aberdeen Inspired secures a positive vote.

The BID would reinvest the £7.4million generated by the levy and potentially double that investment through leveraging funding from sponsorship, voluntary levies and national grants and funding streams.

Aberdeen Inspired was established to attract, sustain and boost investment in Aberdeen’s city centre for the benefit of its levy payers and all those who live, work, shop and visit there.  

It recently successfully retained the city’s Purple Flag accreditation for the eighth year in a row.

The standard requires excellence in the management of the Granite City’s evening and night-time offering as well as in the safety and wellbeing of visitors and citizens. Aberdeen was the first city in Scotland to be awarded the accreditation in 2014 and is held up as an example UK-wide, having been re-accredited every year since then.

In addition to the levy payments, which go to support city centre improvements and initiatives, the BID brought in an additional £2million in other funding in 2020, almost double what is collected by levy.  

The BID footprint covers Union Street and the surrounding streets, including Broad Street, Market Street, Bridge Street, Huntly Street and Holburn Junction.