FREMANTLE’S Business Improvement District has until February next year to prove its value or it will lose funding.
Fremantle council’s finance and policy committee knocked back a five-year funding agreement this week after staff warned the BID had chewed through $1.8 million with only mixed results.
The independent not-for-profit company was established by the city in 2012 to promote business in Fremantle’s CBD and facilitate events like the Winter Festival.
Staff noted that business owners had been complaining that too much of the cash was eaten up by overheads, while the BID held too many piddly events and needed to focus on one or two “big ticket” events per year.
“It is doubtful that the BID has returned $1.8m in value to the Fremantle business community over its five year lifespan,” wrote officers, recommending it be defunded.
Their stance was echoed by Fremantle chamber of commerce CEO Olwyn Williams.
“Their business plan lacks rigour and financial detail,” she said in a submission.
“We support differential rates being managed by an independent board but the $1.8 million spent has not been used to its full potential.”
But signs the BID had been turning around its fortunes under new manager Jenny Marslen prompted councillors to ignore the staff recommendation and give the BID time to continue its reform.
A survey of local businesses showed approval for the bid had lifted by 15 per cent in the last two years.
“Early on BID struggled, but they have turned it around in the last two years and the Winter Festival and the school holiday activation process have been successful,” said Cr Dave Coggin.
“However, we as a council need to be more engaged with BID and it needs to be more focused in its approach.”
BID board member Danielle Cattalini said 397 out of the 600 businesses in the CBD had become members.
“We’ve worked hard at the grassroots level to grow membership and we’re now in a position to work on a long-term strategy,” she told the chamber.
“Have we got it completely right? No.
“But we are working hard to get it to the point where it is sustainable and we wanted five years of funding, because we have a long-term plan.”
by STEPHEN POLLOCK