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The ‘man in the street’ in Bournville, Cotteridge, Kings Norton and Stirchley, is only just becoming dimly aware of BIDs, which are replacing LEPs in the local headlines at the moment, and wonders what is meant by the term.

“This has been a truly business-led and business-driven project”

If he searched the internet he could uncover the information on the website of the Lifford Business Association (LBA), which advocates “taking back control of our area from an authority that can’t afford to give us what we need and to deciding together what we think is best for the business community and our customers in Bournville, Cotteridge, Kings Norton and Stirchley” (emphasis added).

People, if paid a full living wage, buy goods and services and create jobs

Residents were not involved or given a vote on the final decision – yet residents far and near, are the customers without whom businesses – large and small – could not survive. Business Insider and others are reminding us that – contrary to the prevailing rhetoric – as Nick Hanauer, investor and entrepreneur explains, what creates jobs is a ‘healthy economic ecosystem’, customers paid a full living wage and more. In economic jargon this is known as ‘effective demand’.           

Compete or co-operate?

bid bournville greenThe Lifford BID – via street improvements and advertising – proposed to work together to make the trading environment across Bournville, Cotteridge, Kings Norton and Stirchley one which stands on its own two feet and can compete with any other high street in the city.

Some businesses have claimed that a grassroots approach is behind the success of a revitalisation of Stirchley. Writing on their blog, the bakery Loaf, argues: “It is possible that a BID in the area will actually hamper these grassroots activities through a top down approach. Of course this is dependent on the attitude of the BID committee and there could be a positive effect too, but the history of relationships between the Lifford Business Association and some of the organisations listed above does not give us hope.” The Birmingham Bike Foundry, also on the Pershore road, asked local residents to encourage local businesses not to vote away their say on local services.

bid loafLoaf cites the development in Stirchley’s High Street and cultural life over the last five years with companies and organisations like Birmingham Bike Foundry, South Birmingham Food Coop, Stirchley Stores, Stirchley Market, Stirchley Wines and Spirits, Stirchley Happenings, Stirchley Neighbourhood Forum, Stirchley United Club, the Stirchley Baths committee, Stirchley Park, Love Stirchley, Super Stirchley, Loaf, Birmingham City Council’s Town Centre Manager, Kings Norton Farmers Market and many others contributing to a vibrant cultural life and community atmosphere in the area, adding:

“This grassroots regeneration is not dependent on a BID. It is possible that a BID in the area will actually hamper these grassroots activities through a top down approach. Of course this is dependent on the attitude of the BID committee and there could be a positive effect too, but the history of relationships between the Lifford Business Association and some of the organisations listed above does not give us hope . . . A BID is a step in the direction of privatisation of our high streets. A BID subtly suggests that the businesses in the area have ownership over it, and can decide what improvements and changes they would like to make and have the right to carry those out . . .”.

A correspondent, having just heard about this initiative, after summarising these views by email, agrees that “there are better ways of organising as Stirchley’s self-made revival testifies”:

“What’s lost of course is that the BID could have been redistributive, as Stirchley and Bournville’s successes could not necessarily be replicated in the poorer areas the BID would have covered without the cross-subsidy the BID would have engendered… though I’m not sure if this redistribution would have happened in practice beyond a few minor street improvements”.

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At least there is now one well-received prospective political leader clearly offering to build a ‘healthy economic ecosystem’, increasing the effective demand which would be spent on goods and services and so revitalising business and manufacturing – instead of giving the hidden subsidies, direct grants and tax breaks to big business (‘handshakes’) which are reported to amount to £3,500 a year per household.

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