Working in Partnership Pays – Bath, Somerset

Purple Flag awarded to BathIt is a theme we come back to again and again during courses and consultancy work, working in partnership pays for everyone who has an effective business plan; those business owners who take a long term view of their business.

When asked which side of the fence we sit on, the local authority or the licensed trade, we have never really been able to answer conclusively one way or the other. The reason is that sometimes we agree with business and sometimes with local and national government. The fact is on many arguments they are both right, but the middle ground and compromise has somehow become an untenable position for many; perceived as a sign of weakness rather than a starting point for negotiation.

Ultimately there is more common ground than people imagine and the objectives are often the same, it is the way to achieve these common goals which differs somewhat. So our position is to bring the two sides closer together and to help them to realise the mutual objectives and mutual benefits.

At Beyond the Blue we work with a lot of businesses in the licensed retail sector, with local authorities and, as a Lead Assessor for the Association of Town Centre Managers (ATCM) Purple Flag Awards, I discuss policy with many of the partners involved in the management of the late night economy, in towns across the UK.

It is this partnership approach to the management of town centres which can really benefit all involved. There does however sometimes seem to be a reluctance to include business in this partnership and a reluctance on behalf of business to get involved; a crazy stance when businesses involved in the late night economy are integral to the success or failure of town centres.

Well run late night premises add incredible value to towns, while a single poorly run venue can negatively impact the whole town and tarnish the reputations of well run premises throughout a town; so business must be at the heart of the partnership, not at the periphery.

The example of Bath which was one of the first town centres to be awarded Purple Flag status, demonstrates the benefits of effective partnerships.

I should point out at this stage that I have not been involved in the purple flag assessment process for Bath and therefore am relying on media reporting of their success, but the reports I have read are all positive.

My experience is that there are two types of approach to businesses in the licensed retail sector. The first is a ‘reactive approach’, dealing with challenges as they arise and developing strategies to overcome problems once they become apparent; the second is a ‘proactive approach’ which predicts challenges and put systems into place to avoid them before they occur.

The second strategy often means investment in the form of both time and money upfront and this is the primary reason some businesses are not as proactive as they might be. However it is our experience that the ‘reactive strategy’ is overwhelmingly more expensive and time-consuming in the long run; the proposed changes to the Licensing Act by the coalition government only reinforces this, as the number of chances people are given is set to fall dramatically and the penalties (fines) are set to rise dramatically.

Let’s examine just one aspect of the success of the partnership approach in Bath; the resultant decrease in antisocial behaviour and crime in the town centre.

The advantage to the authorities in Bath, beyond the satisfaction of delivering on their promises to the electorate that they will protect the public, is that increased numbers of people of different ages and different backgrounds will feel safe to come and use the businesses and services available at night. This in turn delivers greater revenue for the local council and a fall in expensive preventative measures required to deal with and resolve antisocial behaviour and crime.

For business the benefits are actually almost exactly the same, a safer town centre attracts more customers and in general customers with greater disposable incomes; equally they will also attract less costs in the longer term, from additional security and repair to damaged property.

It is a simple formula that works on so many levels. Let me give you an example many people will be familiar with; the door supervisor. Some businesses require them but do not realise the positive potential of a professional well trained door supervisor over a ‘bouncer’.

A professional door supervisor does everything they can to avoid conflict, therefore preserving the reputation of your business and appreciates that the bulk of their work is actually customer service and positively representing your business; they can often be more effective than 3 or 4 ‘bouncers’. So although an effective professional door supervisor may cost twice as much as the ‘bouncer’ and may require additional investment in the form of training, the fact that they do the job of many actually delivers you a cost saving and an useful way of promoting your business over your competitors; proactive over reactive… 

Congratulations to Bath and to all those who run successful businesses within Bath’s late night economy for their Purple Flag award and for working together to provide a safe, pleasant, vibrant town centre for residents and visitors alike.

At Beyond the Blue Training & Consultancy we deliver a number of different courses and services including;

For more information on any of our services, please call us on 01784 434 392 / 0845 602 55 95 (low call rate from UK landlines) or Contact Us.


To view the original article – On night patrol (go to page 18)

Source – Connect

Date – Winter 2010

Submitted by – Peter Mayhew