In a different life, I was once asked if Swansea wanted to take part in an imaginative pilot scheme to help revitalise the local economy.
The idea was to give city-centre based businesses an effective say on improvements – plus the funds to back it up.
As it happened, I’d already seen this kind of self-help initiative in action during a visit to the US. I also had great faith in the person who was doing the asking.
A while later, almost fifteen years ago to the day in fact, local government minister Sue Essex congratulated Swansea on backing the first Business Improvement District (BID) in Wales.
A massive amount has gone on since then and BID is an established part of the economic scene. It’s no surprise that its hands-on approach has been copied by towns and cities around the UK.
The main principle is simple. You have an independent self-financed body made up of local businesses who put their own stamp on what’s needed to make the city centre more welcoming and relevant to visitors. What’s important is that they’re able to deliver those improvements themselves.
There have been a number of success stories and while they may seem small in scale, that makes doesn’t make them any less significant.
The Ranger service and Big Heart promotions are probably the most visible contribution to the city centre’s well-being. However, full credit goes to the Taxi and Night Marshals who make a night out in Swansea a safer experience. Their presence has helped reduce anti-social behaviour by nearly a quarter.
The key element to remember about BIDs is that they’re not a local government offshoot or agency. They support council strategies but their priorities come from business. A succession of council administrations have acknowledged this relationship and the added value it brings.
Like it’s counterparts across the UK, Swansea’s city centre faces massive challenges. The impact of the pandemic has reinforced a shift in shopping and employment patterns. Getting things back to an even and sustainable footing is going to be no mean feat.
One thing I sure about in these uncertain times is that, given the chance, the people behind the BID will continue to work towards making the city a safe and accessible place that people want to visit and work.
They have given businesses tremendous support under impossible circumstances. I hope this is recognised in coming months.
Buying online isn’t always the convenient option
My record of buying stuff online remains erratic to say the least.
I recently ordered some items from an electrical goods outlet (no names, no defamation). The payment went through quick enough but I started getting a bit twitchy when confirmation of shipping didn’t arrive.
What I didn’t know is that increased security by the vendor meant I was supposed to verify the order via a return email. Unfortunately, this info ended up in my junk mail and it was several days before I spotted it.
Anyway, things soon started happening once this was cleared up. An email told me I’d be receiving two separate deliveries. The problem was that this would be in a week’s time with a Bank Holiday in-between
I soon cheered up though as another email (plus a text) gave the good news that this had all changed and it was going to be much quicker.
The same system then told me the package had gone to a distribution centre in Yorkshire – which meant it would need to be strapped to a ballistic missile if it was going to meet the advised delivery slot
Nothing has arrived at the time of writing this. All of which makes me wonder as to who finds this arrangement convenient.
Not the customer, that’s for sure.