By Kevin Ward, manager of Newport Now Business Improvement District

BUSINESSES in Newport city centre and 11 other towns and cities across Wales received bills for their business rates and the BID levy over the last few weeks.

The current 12 BIDs in Wales bring together businesses in a defined geographical area, so they can develop projects and activities which drive economic regeneration.

Businesses within BID areas vote on whether they pay an additional levy to fund activities and projects outlined in their business plan.

If they vote ‘yes’, a BID is created to deliver those agreed projects over a five-year period.

But BIDs have started to play a wider role for their members in recent years, ensuring the voice of the high street is heard by the powers-that-be.

Newport Now regularly lobbies the city council, the police and other local authorities on issues concerning businesses in the city centre.

Last November, all 12 Welsh BIDs came together to lobby Welsh Government over business rates after Chancellor Philip Hammond announced a one-third cut in business rates for smaller retail firms to boost the high street.

Business rates are a devolved matter and it was for the Welsh Government to decide whether the discount to be applied in England would also be offered to businesses in Wales with a rateable value of £51,000 and under.

BIDs gained substantial media coverage for our lobbying, including from the Argus.

The voice of the high street was well and truly heard in Cardiff Bay as the then Cabinet Secretary for Finance, Mark Drakeford, announced that eligible businesses would get up to £2,500 off their business rates bills, with properties with a rateable value of up to £9,100 paying no rates at all.

The Welsh Government estimates 15,000 retailers in Wales with a rateable value of up to £50,000 will benefit from the scheme.

The bills received by many Newport city centre businesses in the last few weeks are the first to include the cut and highlight the important role BIDs can play for their members on the national stage.