Comments & Questions Answered
Here you will find answers to some comments and misconceptions regarding Advancing Aberystwyth and our work.
Are Advancing Aberystwyth using an external consultant to deliver our renewal ballot work?
Our Renewal Ballot date is March 31st 2021 (timetable and further info to be released end of Jan 2021). At the beginning of 2020, in order to ensure we run a fair and legal ballot process, we received support/advice from an external consultant in relation to the legal process of running a Renewal Ballot. Since then, all of the work in relation to the ballot e.g. consultation, BID term agreements, business plan and project development, PR & Communications etc, has been (and will be) carried out by Advancing Aberystwyth staff.
Did Advancing Aberystwyth use levy money to pay a contractor to clean streets in July 2020?
No. Cleaning streets is the council’s remit and is not a project we have funded. Before businesses re-opened after the first national lockdown, there was a lot of negativity regarding the ‘look of the town’. As a result, to make the town look more appealing to visitors, we decided to clear and weed some shopfront premises (which is not the responsibility of the council) and hired a contractor for a fee of £5 per businesses. The contractor also did some weeding of pavements, which was a service that we did not pay for.
Have Advancing Aberystwyth taken over any council services?
No. We are governed by national BID Regualtions, which state all the projects we deliver in the town are in addition to those provided by Ceredigion County Council and Aberystwyth Town Council. We have in the past ‘added value’ to services e.g. Christmas Lights which are delivered by the Town Council. Also, we temporarily transformed the old paddling pool in to a Giant Sand Pit, as this was no longer a service delivered by the council, and without this intervention it would have remained empty and unused. We often work closely with the Council in order to deliver projects successfully e.g. to gain a licence for an event or obtain permission to use land. However, we have never taken over a council service.
Do Aberystwyth University receive an 80% discount on their levy payments?
No. The University do not receive any discount and pay the full 1.25% of the rateable value of each of their premises within the BID area.
Are levy payments capped for large businesses?
No. Every single businesses pays 1.25% of their whole rateable value. There is no cap on payments for multi nationals.
Did you collect the levy during COVID-19 pandemic?
No we did not collect the full levy. Along with other BIDs in Wales, we lobbied the Welsh Government to suspend the levy charges to businsses during 2020/21. Unfortiunately, they were not prepared to do so. However, in order to support small businsses, our board decided not to collect the levy from businesses with a rateable value of £51k and under.
What did you do to help businesses?
As well as not charging the levy to small businsses, we also provided the following support:
- Set up a new web area promoting new services and opening times of businesses during ‘lockdown’
- Offered FREE e-learning courses in partership with Coleg Ceredigion whilst businesses and staff were on furlough leave
- Provided FREE Re-opening Protection Kits for businesses
- Offered FREE COVID-19 training
- Provided FREE outdoor furniture to help hospitality businesses
- Secured a grant to provide new outdoor café areas in the town
Still to come:
- FREE Hand Sanitiser for re-opening after second fire break lockdown
- FREE facebook advertising for businesses
- New ‘Siop Aber – Caru Aber’ shop local Gift Voucher project over Christmas and New Year
Ice Rink & Winterland
"The Ice Rink was a waste of levy payers money"
Our Ice Rink was not actually funded by our levy income. We received a grant from the Mill Street Development Fund in 2018. The income we recieve from ticket sales and sponsorship means the ice rink can return every year.
"The Ice Rink is in the wrong the location"
In 2018 we wanted to bring a major winter attraction to the town centre over the festive period. We looked at several options including car parks on the outskirts of town, however we wanted visitors to have to walk though the centre of town in order to reach the attraction, hopefully visiting shops and cafes at the same time. The most appropriate site closest to the town centre was the Castle Green & St Michaels Car Park. We have learned a lot over the past two years, and realise the location has its restrictions. As a result, the 2020 Winterland & Ice rink (cancelled due to COVID-19) was to be moved to the Vale of Rheidol Car Park, allowing us to have a bigger Ice Rink and bigger/better Winterland Rides. That location will also be more sheltered from the wind and will result in less cancelled sessions. The plan now is to hold the 2021 attraction at the Vale of Rheidol site.
"The Ice Rink made huge losses"
Advancing Aberystwyth are not a commercial organisation. When we deliver our projects, our aim is not to make a profit, it is to provide benefits to the levy businesses (directly or indirectly). However, where appropriate, we will charge for certain projects/attractions e.g. Ice Rink and Cinemas, so that they can become self-sustaining. In order to encourage more people to the town, our Ice Rink ticket prices were the cheapest in the UK – we could have charged more, but making money was not our aim, it was to draw as many people to town as possible.
Project Income & Expenditure:
2018 Expenditure: £93,057
2018 Income: £86,496
2019 Expenditure: £99,617
2019 Income: £62,996
Therefore over the two years, the average cost was approx. £21k per year, which we believe is great value for a month long attraction that brought thousands of visitors to the town from all over the UK. When we move to a new site, we expect the project to breakeven, as we will be able to sell more tickets (due to bigger rink) and there should be less cancelled sessions being more sheltered from the wind.
"The Ice Rink & Rides are too small"
Although we were pleased to have a location so close to our businesses, the major restriction of the site we chose was space and weight, which meant we could only include a few small rides, and a small ice rink . In future years, the Winterland will be moved to Rheidol Car park, which will allow us to have a bigger Ice Rink and bigger/better rides.
Look of the Town
Why are we paying to clear gutters?
We believe that it’s important that the town looks attractive and welcoming. As we cannot replace or duplicate services provided by the council e.g. street cleaning, we provided a new service to help improve the look of the town. Also, for individual businesses to clear their own gutter, could be quite an expensive service, therefore by us doing it in bulk was excellent value for money. We also cleared some shop fronts before businesses re-opened after the original lockdown.
Why aren't we clearing rubbish from the streets?
We are not able to spend levy payers money on replacing existing council services e.g. refuse collecting. However, we are able to add value to those services, therefore we have funded equipment for volunteers to do litter picking, and in the future we will aim to improve this service by introducing schemes such as seagull proof bags.
How much levy money is spent on the cinemas?
The fact that we charge an admission fee for our cinemas means that they pay for themselves and no levy money is spent on them. As a result, we are making the levy money go further by being able to deliver more projects and events.
"When a cinema is cancelled, you are still paying a fee, which is a waste of levy money"
This is incorrect. Unfortunately, due to high winds, we have cancelled two of our cinema events in order to ensure public safety. When this happens, we simply choose another date and we do not get charged by the supplier for the cancelled event.
Paddling Pool / Sand Pit
Whose responsibility is the Paddling Pool?
The paddling pool site is the responsiobility of Ceredigion County Council and not Advancing Aberystwyth.
Why is there no Giant Sand Pit in 2020?
IN 2018 & 2019, we secured a licence from the council to use the site. In January 2020, this licence was refused by the council as the site was no longer deemed structurally safe – due to storm damage in the winter of 2019. As a result, the paddling pool stayed empty in 2020.
Why was it stopped being used as a Paddling Pool?
The Council decided to close the paddling pool as it was no longer able to hold water, and unless an alternative use could be found, the site would remain unused and derilict. Being in such a prominent position within the town, we wanted to avoid that scenario and therefore found a temporary use for the site whilst the council decides what to do long term.
Why did we turn the site in to a Giant Sand Pit in 2018 & 2019?
In 2018, we were informed that the site could no longer be used as a paddling pool as it could no longer hold water in its current state. As a result, we firstly explored the idea of creating a Splash Park. However, we were told that no long term development could take place until the Sea Defence work had been completed. Therefore, to avoid the site being empty and an ‘eyesore’ on the Prom, we came up with a short term solution, which was a ‘Giant Sand Pit’.