New year, new beginnings. It’s especially true for Sheffield BID, which  will finally go to ballot for its second term in March. The new chair,  Amanda Phillips, tells unLTD’s Mike Durham why it’s all to play for

It’s fair to say that Sheffield BID faced some significant changes in 2020.

The initiative was almost turned upside-down when the first term was suddenly extended for eight months due to COVID-19, putting the ballot plans and the regular income on hold.

There was also a change in structure, Suzy Brain England made the decision to step down from her position as chair.  Thankfully, Amanda Philips, who lives and breathes retail as centre manager for The Moor, made the brave choice to volunteer for the role.

Amanda said: “I don’t like shopping, but I love retail. I think that the board thought that I had a lot of experience I could bring to the table to convince retailers into getting BID through, because that’s the critical thing.

“A lot of people who pay the levy don’t realise what BID has done for the city over the past five years – if they looked at the full story, they’d say we can’t do without it.

“If you come into work in the morning and you’ve got graffiti all over your wall, you just call the number, that’s someone employed by BID coming to clean it, not the council.”

So, what does Amanda have in mind for her first year as chair?

“The main thing for me is getting this vote through so we can continue to deliver and enhance what we’ve been delivering to this city.

“COVID-19 has made that challenge really difficult, because some sectors haven’t opened the doors since March 22, and we’re expecting them to pay extra money.

“It’s tough out there for everybody, profit margins are on everyone’s minds. All your staff are working from home, but you’re still paying rent.”

Should everything hopefully go to plan, extensive consultations suggest that BID needs more of an evolution, rather than a reinvention.

The initiative will target four key themes next year. Perhaps the most obvious is Vibrant, which is all about enhancing visitor’s experience with diverse events, festivals and culture like Bricktropolis and Cliffhanger.

Of course, in the current situation no one can say exactly when these events will return, but Amanda is confident they will – even if they may look slightly different when they do.

“We’ve got to work on the premise that life will at some stage return to normal, because if we don’t I might as well pack my bags up as a shopping centre manager now.”

Connected is exactly what it says on the tin, and is all about bringing people and businesses in the city centre closer together through various initiatives. BID must work with the council, stakeholders and investors to make sure the vision for Sheffield is one.

Those connections can even go further. Amanda says that Sheffield’s BID has been approached by BIDs in other cities with an interest in running their own version of some of our events – which could lead to an income that could be reinvested into the centre.

Sustainability is all about putting the pieces in place to ensure the hard-work put into Sheffield BID will be visible long into the future.

“It’s important that if we do things that they don’t just disappear. If BID doesn’t make it to a second term then we’d like to think everything we put in place in the first – like supporting the council in going for Future High Street Funds, and encouraging the renovation of Castlegate – will have left a lasting impact and legacy.”

The last of the themes is Maintained, which prioritises making sure the City Centre is a welcoming place for staff, visitors and the local community with early morning clean ups and graffiti tackling teams.

Amanda says it’s the key element for over 80 per cent of levy payers: “If Sheffield is safer and cleaner, it not only brings customers of all ages and different sectors, it brings in new retail, restaurants, bars and office blocks.

“When someone comes to look into where to open their business, like HSBC at the top of The Moor, it has to tick a lot of boxes. Businesses want their staff to feel safe, they want their city to feel clean and I think all the things Sheffield BID does, builds into that.”

Amanda acknowledges it’ll be a tough to keep all this going, especially when levy payers – business which occupy city centre premises with a rateable value of £40,000 or more – will be paying at a reduced rate of 0.5% in the first year to balance out the hardships of 2020.

“We’re confident we can survive, and still deliver what we want to deliver.

“I would like to think come the end of 2021 we are at our new normal. I don’t think it’ll ever go back to the way it was before. Whether that’s masks in public or shops and sanitising is just habit, but I like to think we can see Sheffield is coming out of it stronger, together.

“It’s going to be a tough few months, but we’re going to get through that, get the BID vote through, and then make Sheffield look better than ever before.”

Visit the Sheffield BID website to find out more: sheffieldbid.com