Kirkcaldy needs to learn from collapse of Dunfermline BID - column

Kirkcaldy's Christmas lantern parade (Pic: Walter Neilson)
Kirkcaldy's Christmas lantern parade (Pic: Walter Neilson)

It’s funny how people only sit up and take notice of something once it has gone.

Dunfermline is facing up to no Christmas lights switch on this year, and no fireworks display.

The Purple flag scheme, which promoted the town as a safe place to enjoy at night, has also been scrapped, and the ‘BID in blooom’ initiative is set to end.

Why? Because the town’s BID, Dunfermline Delivers, has not won its renewal ballot.

It secured the backing of the majority of traders, but the convoluted voting mechanism behind a BID meant it also needed a majority when it came to rateable value.

And only now with its imminent demise are people realising how much it did.

It’s an alarm bell which should also be ringing with levy payers in Kirkcaldy.

A BID company is a small organisation with tiny resources when placed against the size of the council which it is, technically, independent of, but which it also has to dance with, and, sometimes, round.

But it punches above its weight in many areas, and, crucially, it has just one single remit – the town centre. Our town centre.

The council doesn’t.

It tends to focus on the bigger picture – Mid-Fife rather than Kirkcaldy, for example – and while it has the resource, it doesn’t have the focus to get ultra local and take over the events, workshops and initiatives run by a BID.

And, be honest, if they did, they’d only smother them in inertia.

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But things are clearly changing.

The outcome of the renewal ballot meant the end for Dunfermline – and it isn’t the first BID to fall. The fear is it won’t be the last either.

One major problem is the double whammy of a majority vote, and a majority in terms of rateable value.

The collapse of major retail chains doesn’t just lead to empty shops, it also removes big payers from the table, so the BID’s fund decreases at a time when the local authority’s contribution is also being cut.

But there’s another problem here.

Local managers don’t get a say in whether to vote yes or no.

Some companies have a UK wide policy when it comes to BIDs, but the ultimate decision to give, or withhold support, is taken hundreds of miles away by senior execs with no understanding, or interest in, the local scene.

That cannot be right.

The closure of M&S means Kirkcaldy4All’s next ballot is now minus one of its biggest rateable values – that not only cuts its funds, but impacts directly on the outcome of the vote. Add in local closures – Pancake Place, ACA, the Money Shop, Babas Bistro and so on – and the picture changes further.

And the real danger is the numbers don’t add up.

And no BID in Kirkcaldy?

A huge chunk of the work being done to try to bring transformative change to Kirkcaldy town centre will simply stop.

And it also means no help securing rates reductions or small grants, no place to go for advice, no figure to lobby the powers that be, or quietly support local events and initiatives.

Only now is Dunfermline starting to figure that bit out.