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LVS Oxford; the new school for the Licensed Trade Charity

On 30/10/14 by Brigid Simmonds (Chief Executive)

I was fortunate enough to visit the new Licensed Trade Charity school this week in the company of James Clarke, Chief Executive of Hook Norton, and a former Chairman of the BBPA Midlands region. The Hook Norton brewery is about 20 miles from the new school.

The Licensed Trade Charity helps people in need in our industry. In 2013, the charity spent more than £1.2 million on support and care services. This includes bursaries for children at the non-selective school they operate for 900 students at Ascot.

In 2009, the LTC opened a school for those on the autism spectrum in Hassocks. One in ten children in the UK suffers from autism. While not all need to attend a special school, Hassocks, and now Oxford, cater for those who do need special care. Many are funded by local authorities through a ‘statement’ as they have a legal requirement to provide for their educational needs. Just 15 per cent of young people with autism achieve full-time jobs. The LVS schools make beating these odds a top priority, and every effort is made to meet the special requirements of each child.

LVS Oxford is a former priory. Although it only opened in September, the school already has 16 day pupils and in the New Year there will be week-day boarding too. It was half term when we were there, but this allowed us to admire the beautiful building and refurbishment. The dining room is the former chapel for the nuns. The stained glass windows have been retained and protected, but as everywhere else, the impression if one of light and space. There are extensive grounds and plenty of opportunities for outdoor activities.

The Licensed Trade Charity clearly has expertise in education, but this is not just a philanthropic venture. The income from their schools goes to fund their helpline, website and the lifeline for those working in our industry who need help. Under the stewardship of James Brewster, their CEO, they have recognised that simple fundraising is just not possible in the current climate. Of course they appreciate the support of BBPA members and we raised over £3,000 at our annual dinner, but there are other ways of showing support. You can raise awareness of their services to your licensees; both active and retired, whether they worked in a brewery or a pub. Think whether you could offer work experience or an apprenticeship within your workplace for some of their alumni from Hassocks and now Oxford.

I ended my visit with a trip to the local pub. In this case; the Royal Sun at Begbroke where we had an excellent lunch. It had of course to be owned by a BBPA member; in this case Punch Taverns, and I was delighted to see a BBPA Challenge 21 poster just as we went through the door!

For more information about the work of the LTC; please visit

Brigid Simmonds
Chief Executive


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A change of heart

On 23/10/14 by Emma Sweet (Marketing Manager at Brakspear)

The BBPA asked me to submit a blog on behalf of Brakspear, about why we decided to enter the Heart at the Community Award this year. Well there’s a couple of simple reasons really, which I’ll happily talk you through now, but I wanted to begin by saying, we’ll definitely be entering one of the three awards next year, with a stronger determination to win!

Don’t get me wrong, we were delighted and amazed to be highly commended for our submission. The competition was stiff, and us entering this kind of award two years ago was unthinkable. Brakspear has been through a bit of a tough time with Henley over the last 14 years since the brewery was closed and sold, and production moving to Marston’s Wychwood Brewery. Many Henley residents still talk about this today, and not in a positive way either.

The company has completely changed in this time too, with new owners in the shape of the Davies family taking over, and having to deal with the hangover of a previous regime that hasn’t always been very popular, shall we say. So from 2007 until 2013, Brakspear pretty much kept themselves to themselves, quietly running pubs, and not really getting too involved with anything beyond that.

This changed towards the end of 2013. I arrived on the scene in July 2012, and was keen to change how Brakspear was perceived within the town. I knew we were a great company, and wanted everyone else to know too. Slowly I started gently introducing Brakspear to people. The sponsorship of a new local news website the Henley Herald, opens doors to meet the Mayor of Henley and various town councillors. And then the rest is history as they say, and more details about what we’ve been up to are on our submission.

We had a lot more confidence about ourselves, and what we were doing in Henley, uniting the pubs and the community for the greater good. However, we were still thrilled to be short-listed and to be highly commended certainly took us by surprise.

We know the good work the BBPA does, and we hold Brigid and the team in high regard for all that they do for the industry. We’re not a company that likes to boast about what we’re up to, but on this occasion we felt we should stand up and be proud, especially via an organisation that we have respect for too.

The final reason is that there’s still a lot of work to be done to quieten our cynics. This is why we’ll be entering next year, as we believe we deserve to win. The only way people will change their mind about us is if we keep shouting about the good work we’re doing, so watch this space...!

Brakspear Winners

Emma Sweet
Marketing Manager at Brakspear


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Institute of Licensing summit

On 21/10/14 by Brigid Simmonds (Chief Executive)

The Institute of Licensing held a very useful and timely Super Strength summit in Birmingham last week to discuss the number of local authorities which are following the example of Ipswich and pursuing voluntary schemes restricting retailers from selling higher-strength beers and ciders, which they claim are primarily bought by street drinkers.

Speakers included representatives from Ipswich, Portsmouth and Public Health England, as well as the Local Government Association in the morning; the trade associations (including me) in the afternoon. The day ended with a barrister who specialises in competition law and the Competition and Market’s Authority (CMA), followed by a panel session.

What has been clear from the start is that the Ipswich model was about policies to help 70 to 75 individuals and developing a clear understanding of the issues affecting them . Many street drinkers have a complex range of issues as well as alcohol addiction, which may include drug dependency and mental health issues.

In Ipswich, the strategy was about helping dependant drinkers into treatment alongside tackling crime and disorder, with reducing the supply of higher-strength beers and ciders only one part of the initiative.

Although the restriction of particular products has received the most focus, the scheme was extremely comprehensive and also included a strong element of enforcement of existing powers, including dispersal of those causing trouble as well as rehabilitation and treatment, and helping drinkers to change their lifestyles.

Many other local authorities have followed the Ipswich model. Much of the publicity has been about restrictions on the sale of certain products. However, some have only replicated this part of the project and not the rehabilitation and other measures, which appear to have been most effective in helping those who are some of the most vulnerable in our society.

So, in some areas we have seen restrictions on the sale of any beer above 5.5 per cent, 6.5 per cent or 7.5 per cent abv, which, as I pointed out, could include a wide range of products many of which may come from local, small or family-owned breweries. As a result, there are concerns that some national retailers may not differentiate between what can be sold in one store, as opposed to another, and so may de-list the product.

Such schemes also risk demonising beer, which is relatively low strength, at 4.2 per cent abv, on average.

Removing products affect all consumers. The BBPA has always maintained that removing certain categories or brands is an unhelpful precedent and the focus should be on the drinker and not the drink.

I was very clear that the BBPA supported partnership working. I promoted Pubwatch, Best Bar None, Business Improvement Districts and Drinkaware, as well as the use of existing legal powers for police and local authorities under the Licensing Act. These include alcohol control zones, laws against serving drunks and dispersal orders as well as the new legislation on below-cost selling and anti-fraud measures, which will help local authorities deal with retailers who sell alcohol very cheaply.

Perhaps the most interesting session was with the barrister specialising in Competition Law and the role of the Competition& Markets Authority (CMA). The CMA is clear that retailers are likely to be at risk of breaching competition law if they ‘enter into agreements and/or concerted practices and/or share information about their future commercial policies or intentions’.

Local authorities and police were warned that there were a number of risks in encouraging retailers into so-called voluntary agreements which could be anti-competitive and that any such initiatives cannot be a collective agreement. Retailers have to be very careful that they are not seen to share information with other retailers about their future commercial intentions, and local authorities must not encourage retailers to do this.

So, telling one retailer that they must sign up because another down the road has done so, could well be in breach of competition law. In addition it was emphasised that conditions on a licence must be proportionate and individual to a particular problem.

For local authorities thinking of introducing such a scheme, I think many will have left knowing that they must tread carefully. I also hope that all will understand the benefits of targeted, effective and sustainable partnerships with the industry.

Brigid Simmonds
Chief Executive


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The death of the high street? I think not!

On 13/10/14 by Brigid Simmonds (Chief Executive)

"High Street gloom as Britain shuts up shop" claims The Times, but nothing could be further from the truth in the three entries I have judged for the Great British High Streets competition.

I was invited to join the Government's Future High Streets Forum last year and a number of Task and Finish groups continue to look at various topics which will help sustain the high street.

This year the main focus has been to build on the work of the Portas' Pilots and invite entries for the Great British High Streets Competition. Some 135 entries under seven categories were received, which were whittled down to a shortlist of 21, or three finalists in each of seven categories. The categories include cities, coastal, local, market town, village, town centre and London.

I have visited three different entries in three different categories. I have been to Brighton (London Road), Colwyn Bay in Wales and Bishops Waltham in Hampshire. I have no idea who will win, (the judges will be meeting shortly to moderate our views), but I would like to share some thoughts on the enthusiasm, partnership working, learnings for the night-time economy, innovation and the subsequent regeneration of the high street; if you take the right approach.

London Road is an often forgotten area of Brighton. There is clearly social deprivation and without doubt there were too many struggling retail outlets and no-go areas with social issues and crime. When I visited in the early afternoon, it was buzzing. The appointment of a town centre manager has been key in all three submissions. Someone to work with individual retailers, someone to coordinate; act as a focus for the partnership; acknowledge when the area has too much retail and needs some converted to residential. A former Co-operative store is now being converted to student accommodation. A nearby covered market has been revitalised, re-discovered and sells produce at one level and has small craft shops and outlets above. Parks used by drug dealers and street drinkers have been re-developed. Local graffiti artists have been invited to decorate buildings and earn so much respect that they are not defaced.

Colwyn Bay was totally different. It has suffered a decline in the number of tourists, but now the the town is fighting back. There are 27 listed buildings in Colwyn Bay, many of them designed by Sidney Colwyn Foulkes in the 1920s. A new beach, as part of coastal defences, is attracting the tourists once more, but the town centre is attracting visitors too. There are new social enterprises and a shop which offers space for three or four local crafts to sell their wares, good occupancy and cooperation with all retailers.

The role of the night-time economy is crucial to any successful town centre; good pubs, restaurants, good management; the use of tools from Business Improvement Districts, to Purple Flag, Best Bar None or Pubwatch. In Brighton care has been taken to encourage the right type of nightlife. An Enterprise Inns pub, large enough for events, is a showcase for draught ale and a range of different offers. Brakspear is refurbishing a pub restaurant nearby. In Colwyn Bay they are keen to attract more operators to prolong the day for visitors. They need more pubs and restaurants to encourage spend in the evening.

Finally, and again very different but equally successful, is the regeneration of the market town of Bishops Waltham near Southampton. Spurred on by the threat of a major edge-of-town supermarket, the local authorities, [1] societies, traders and Chamber of Commerce have come together to protect their local shops including a butcher, baker, greengrocer and restaurants. Here they use IT, with an electronic newsletter, QR codes around the town which give the history of this medieval settlement, local maps and leaflets, reasonably priced parking (the first hour is free) and events which encourage local schools to bring their parents into town. Every shop had an advertisement for a Halloween competition - children have to find their own particular poster and bring parents to see (and inevitably spend too). There is training for shopkeepers - how to encourage customers to spend money by attractive displays and 'hot spots'.

Partnership is the buzz word everywhere. This is not only between public and private sectors, but also between local authorities realising that they simply do not have the funding to work alone and must share resources with others. Innovation, understanding your customer, sense of community, leadership, empowerment of small traders and ensuring the mix on offer is right; all of these will help regenerate high streets.

There is certainly more to come in terms of what more we can do with technology, but I have been so impressed by the dedication and enthusiasm of all I have met while judging this competition and I suspect that all my fellow judges will feel the same. I urge you to watch the DCLG website for examples of good practice to share once the competition is over. But for everyone who writes about the death of the high street, can I encourage you to visit any one of the three places I went to and then spread the word to others.

The high street can and will survive. You only need the right people and the right policies to help it succeed.

Brigid Simmonds
Chief Executive


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When being responsible is win-win

On 10/10/14 by Daisy Blench (Policy Manager - Responsibility)

Acting responsibly is good for business - this was a theme that came through strongly at Heineken's 'Brewing a Better Future' conference last month where the company brought together a range of stakeholders and partners covering the work they do on sustainability, alcohol responsibility and community engagement resulting in some excellent discussions and ideas.

Goldman Sachs produced a report in 2007 which suggested that not only did companies who took CSR seriously do better on the stock market overall but they also performed better against their peers who were less invested in corporate responsibility.

There had been much coverage in the media and elsewhere about companies seeking to portray themselves as responsible being accused of 'greenwash' on environmental issues and often similar negative comments with regard to action on responsible retailing of alcohol or other CSR issues.

However, as well as something being good for business, it still may also be the case that the company and the people within it have a strong commitment to acting responsibly in their community and the wider world. No-one watching the short film of the 'Act for Addaction' campaign, which has raised a huge amount for the charity, could doubt that the team and staff at Heineken UK care a great deal about the cause they are supporting and the importance of recognising the harm that alcohol can do, alongside the pleasure and enjoyment it brings to the majority.

It is of course fair for companies to expect to be challenged and scrutinised on their credentials and most wouldn't expect anything less. In the same way that shareholders will hold them to account on financial performance, risk management and brand reputation, partners who they work with should rightly push to ensure that initiatives and actions are robust and worthwhile.

The FTSE4Good Index Series is intended to measure the performance of companies demonstrating strong environmental, social and governance (ESG) practices and provide robust criterion for investors and a recognised benchmark for other stakeholders wanting to assess a company’s commitment to CSR. Heineken, Marston’s, Enterprise Inns and SAB Miller are amongst the companies in our industry that are part of FTSE4Good.

Some would argue that legislation is the only way to ensure that standards are raised across the board in certain areas and that when companies focus on CSR for business reasons; they are doing so to obtain competitive advantage. However, although companies of course will want to be the first to introduce new, efficient technology, such as Heineken’s SmartDispense, or roll out new cutting edge campaigns on alcohol awareness these actions by their very nature raise the bar for everyone else and encourage others to do more.

Trade associations like the BBPA have a key role to play in profiling the work that our members do in this area and showcasing the best practice that exists all over the industry, whether in sustainability, alcohol awareness or community and charitable activity. Brewing Green, which we have published since 2010 to report on industry progress on environmental commitments, is a good example of highlighting those BBPA members leading the way on environmental sustainability and thereby encouraging others to follow suit. As I've mentioned it, we are publishing this year’s Brewing Green shortly so please send through any case studies you wish to highlight - the template is available here!

Let's celebrate companies doing the right thing and accept that responsibility and commercial success can go hand in hand.

Daisy Blench
Policy Manager - Responsibility


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Beer Day Britain - June 15th 2015

On 20/08/14

Guest post from beer sommelier, Jane Peyton

Britain's national drink, beer, is a source of national pride. Not only is this country one of the leading beer cultures, but British brewers invented more styles of beer currently brewed around the world than any other brewing nation (Mild, Porter, Stout, Imperial Russian Stout, Brown Ale, Pale Ale, India Pale Ale, and Barley Wine). British pubs are second to none, and a visit to the boozer for beer and pub grub is in the top 5 things that visitors to these shores want to do during their trip. I'll drink to that!

With such exalted credentials it may surprise people to know that there is no official day in Britain for celebrating the nations' peerless beer. People have been talking about an annual beer day for some time and all agreeing it is a good idea. But nothing happened so I decided it needed someone to say 'let's do it'. So I did. I asked Sophie de Ronde, head brewer at Brentwood Brewery, and Sara Barton, founder of Brewsters' Brewing Company and former British Brewer of the Year to join me. Together we are spreading the word in the beer world about supporting an annual beer and pub celebration to be held on June 15th and to be called Beer Day Britain. June 15th is a significant day as this is date that Magna Carta was sealed in 1215. But why is there a connection between Beer Day Britain and Magna Carta? Because ale is mentioned in clause 35 of one of the most important legal documents in history:

'Let there be throughout our kingdom a single measure for wine and a single measure for ale and a single measure for corn, namely "the London quarter"'

June 15th 2015 is the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta and there will be national and international festivities that year. Beer Day Britain is a separate celebration to Magna Carta Day in 2015 - it just happens to be on the same day but what better to celebrate such an auspicious date but with beer at the pub!

The plan is for Beer Day Britain to be 'owned' by all beer lovers, brewers, pubs, beer shops, and anyone else involved in beer or pubs and for everyone to get involved in any way they can be that arranging special events, brewing a celebration beer, hosting a beer barbeque, trying to convert a friend to drink beer, or spreading the word and the beer love. Social media will be invaluable in getting the word out, especially Twitter and Facebook. A websiteis now on-line so beerios can download an information pack, the Beer Day Britain logo to use as they want, and artwork for a beer mat or poster. See you on Twitter @BeerDayBritain and here's the making Britain's national beer celebration the best in the world!


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Fracking – assessing the threat to beer

On 29/07/14 by Brigid Simmonds (Chief Executive)

As the Government opens bidding for the 14th round of onshore licences for shale gas, the BBPA has met with the UK Operators Onshore Oil and Gas Trade (UKOOG) Association to discuss fears that fracking, or to give it its proper name; hydraulic fracturing, may affect water used for brewing beer. There has been particular concern expressed by German Brewers about fracking and the issue has already been raised in the UK as the new Thwaites brewery will be located in an area which already has a fracking licence. So are these fears justified?

179 licences for hydraulic fracturing have been granted in the UK since 2009, despite some significant barriers to entry. Corporation tax is currently charged at 62%, although this has recently been reduced to encourage investment in drilling. Energy security is also an issue and if the predicted declines in the availability of North Sea gas by 2030 are realised, 80% of our gas will have to be imported from outside the UK. Obviously such imports do not pay corporation tax which currently contribute 1.3% of GDP.

UKOOG were quick to reassure us that the industry in the UK is highly regulated and it is only when the right protocols are in place and Government bodies such as the Environment agency and HSE are totally satisfied, that any investigation for shale gas will begin. Whilst the UK water industry is not a statutory consultee within this process, they have also signed an MOU with UKOOG to develop a closer working relationship and ensure that any potential risks to water quality as a result of hydraulic fracturing are kept to a minimum.

Once all the necessary consents and permits have been granted and agreement has been reached to start drilling, the target for the gas is approximately one and a half miles underground and typically well below the ground water level. As part of the necessary geological survey, any water used by a brewery would be identified before drilling began and the source would have to be protected. Here, the main concern is less about the target for drilling and more about water that is used during the drilling operation itself.

Drilling requires significant quantities of water and well shafts are lined and bonded with as many as three layers of steel piping to prevent any leeching of contaminants into the ground water supply. In addition to physical barriers to prevent ground water contamination, a constant monitoring process is in place, both during the drilling process and once drilling has been completed. All waste effluent is collected and removed from site for treatment by the local water provider.

Turning back to beer, over half of the UK’s brewers depend on a private borehole to supply raw water. Whilst treatment systems commonly used to generate water of the perfect quality for brewing would remove most contaminants within this supply, the BBPA will continue to monitor the progress of the shale gas industry. Water is our main ingredient and the safety, quality and consistency of supply is crucial. The meeting with UKOOG was the start of our dialogue and it was reassuring to learn that they and their members are definitely keen to work with us now and in the future.

Brigid Simmonds
Chief Executive


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Acas Breakfast Briefing - Zero Hours Contracts

On 24/07/14 by Brigid Simmonds (Chief Executive)

The Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Bill, which deals with pub companies, includes clauses to outlaw the use of exclusivity agreements in Zero Hours Contracts. Whilst a number of pub companies use Zero Hours Contracts, none that we are aware of have exclusivity agreements, but it was very useful timing to be invited by Sir Brendan Barbour the Chairman of Acas to a breakfast briefing to discuss further.

We heard from a range of speakers, starting with Anne Sharpe the CEO of Acas who set the scene in talking about a-typical contracts, workers rights to holiday and sickness pay, but the practical aspects of zero hours where an employee turns down a shift and is then not offered anymore and the lack of trust that can exist with these contracts. She did point out that there is a danger that any legislation will deal with today’s problems and not tomorrows, so we need to make sure that legislation is future-proof.

Ian Brinkley from the Work Foundation and a lecturer at Lancaster University said that the share of permanent jobs of the workforce in 1993 was 79% and recent figures have shown that it is now just under 79%, so not much change here and perhaps not as much growth in flexible working as expected. The change if there is one, is that managers now control work – they decide who they need when. The number of those on Zero Hours Contracts has been revised up from 200,000 to 1.4 million and may be more. Whilst there are many more who are satisfied with these contracts than those who are dissatisfied, there is a tendency for these contracts to be offered to those who are low skilled. It is therefore incumbent on employers and employees to be aware of their rights and responsibilities.

Sally Hunt is the General Secretary of the University and College Union and spoke passionately about the misuse of Zero Hours Contracts in this sector. She spoke of a lecturer who every year only received confirmation of hours two days before term started and who had no guarantee of holiday pay during the summer vacation.

In our discussion at the end, the Universities and Colleges Employers Association countered this view with statistics that the number of people in their sector on zero hours contracts had fallen by 11% in the last year and that any figures included visiting lecturers, musicians etc. This opened the door for Acas to offer mediation!
The same was true for the second case study from Colin Angel of Homecare Association. There are 410,000 employees who work on average 21 hours a week. 50% to 75% are on Zero Hours Contracts. He blamed much of this on the price set by local authorities for the service which they feel is underfunded. The LGA took a different view and so again perhaps Acas can help!

Ian Brinkley said that he believed that if more use could be made of proper forecasting there would be no need for zero hours contracts. I pointed out that if you ran a pub in Essex last weekend with flooding there was likely to have been no one in the pub. In central London where the promised rain failed to fall; the pubs were packed. It is difficult to forecast when you are weather dependent.

Where does this leave the pub industry? The Acas policy discussion paper which you can find on their website, suggested that 11% of callers to their helpline came from the ‘hotel and restaurant’ sector by Standard Industrial Classifications. Our research shows that companies use Zero Hours Contracts, but that banning exclusivity agreements will not really affect our sector. In addition to the ban, however, there is a promise from BIS of guidance too. I think we all started out thinking that generic guidance might work, but listening to the very different issues in different sectors, it may be that more specific guidance to cover leisure and hospitality would work better. BBPA will continue to work with BIS to find a suitable solution. It is probably worth noting that a future Labour Government would go further.

Brigid Simmonds
Chief Executive


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Business Improvement Districts for town centres and tourism

On 09/07/14 by Brigid Simmonds (Chief Executive)

Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) have existed in the UK since 2003. There are now over 185, mainly in town and city centres, where businesses fund additional services to improve and market their local area. Over £40 million per annum has been raised by local BID member businesses and they are a great example of partnership working. At a recent presentation I made in Southport to the British Destinations Association, I found that several destinations are now looking to establish Tourism BIDs (or T-Bids) -certainly something of interest to brewing and pubs.

Nottingham had the first BID dedicated to the night-time economy and although this has now been absorbed into the retail BID, nightlife in Nottingham remains a key focus. Their budget, paid for by a levy of 1% on business rate payers, raised about £260,000 a year. It supported events like the food and drinks festival; it paid for taxi marshals on Friday and Saturday nights; it introduced and supported Best Bar None and commissioned murals for vacant units in the city centre.

Tourism BIDs are slightly different. Conventional BIDs tend to be in fairly narrowly defined local authority areas. TBIDs can cover a much wider geographical spread. Normally in a BID, all businesses situated within a specific area make a contribution which is between 1% and 4% of rateable value. Whilst the contribution might not change, in a TBID the criteria can be based on footfall, revenue per available room or sales and the contributors can be defined by the type of service they provide and the sector within which they operate.

So why is this important to brewers and publicans? Well, pubs are important to all tourism destinations and third on the list of things to do for overseas visitors to the UK. A vibrant night-time economy is also important to tourist destinations, as is a range of retail and leisure outlets on their high street. Dartmoor, Great Yarmouth, Greenwich, Cornwall, Bournemouth Coastal, Birmingham & Solihull are all looking at establishing TBIDs to help them enhance their destination and make them more attractive to visitors.

Yesterday I was in Bournemouth to attend the next meeting of the Future High Streets Forum, chaired by Brandon Lewis MP, our Minister for Pubs. Business Improvement Districts form one of a suite of ways of working in partnership which the BBPA supports – so much better than a Late Night Levy!

Brigid Simmonds
Chief Executive


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