COLIN NICHOL has a background in media, shopping centre management and marketing. He was also a member of the committee that set up the Business Improvement District group for Fremantle. In this week’s THINKING ALLOWED, he ruminates on Fremantle council withdrawing funding for the BID.
FREMANTLE council has decided, as is its prerogative, to take money from central city businesses and spend it more widely.
Having formed the Business Improvement District project, it now wants the money that company has been receiving from CBD businesses for its own marketing programme.
The earlier Fremantle First campaign suffered a similar fate of being absorbed by council. Its budget and surplus cash was repurposed to set up the BID.
Now in turn, that financial revolving door rotates funds back to council.
The BID has been funded mainly from differential rates, collected by council and used to promote the interests of those businesses within that defined area.
The consortium comprises five business precincts: Victoria Quay, Fishing Boat and Challenger Harbours, West End, City Central and the Cappuccino Strip.
The BID will cease to exist at the end of June and they wind up hoping their sense of mission and legacy will be acknowledged and enhanced by the new body.
WA local government minister David Templeman advises there is nothing preventing council from spending the rates outside the zone from which they were collected, but paradoxically, they can only be levied from properties zoned commercial. Rumblings around town are questioning why some should pay for the rest of the city and this take-over has had the belated counter-effect of boosting support for the BID.
What went wrong? If it’s any consolation to its staff and Board, very little – once they got up to speed they achieved commendably.
Fremantle BID was never likely to fulfil its greatest ambitions; as constructed by council it was under-funded and overloaded with bureaucracy.
There were insufficient resources to produce optimum results and that had been the prediction from some members of the committee that put it together.
Nevertheless it did better than expected and council has apparently decided to ride on the back of that and redirect the BID levy to their new Destination Marketing campaign with its high-powered Working Group.
Used effectively, the potential of this is considerable and expectations will be high, given the support of the city and its resources.
The committee has a large brief, with advisory but “no decision making” authority.
That suggests responsibility without power and is a considerable challenge, considering it encompasses all of Fremantle. Just how wide and where will be interesting to observe.
It will be expensive and need close oversight. Council will contribute up to $50,000 a year as subsidy to the current BID net levy of approximately $360,000. That may well need supplementation.
Contributors to that levy will want reports from the working group on promotion of “the product”, the city and its many and widespread component parts, but the product itself needs work.
During council briefings to the committee that set up the BID, it was, with unique employment of logic, postulated that because it was so successful in New York City it had to work here. But it can and does do well in towns with a small CBD like Fremantle.
More suitable might have been the model where a group of volunteer business leaders take the initiative and run it from their boardrooms, or in Fremantle’s case, the nearest cafe.