Find a blog post

Refine your search here


Catching up with KingstonFirst business improvement district

On 23/02/16 by Brigid Simmonds (Chief Executive)

KingstonFirst (in Kingston upon Thames), was the first Business Improvement District, set up in 2004. It now has 750 members who occupy 940 properties and pay a 1 per cent levy based on business rates. This raises about £800,000 for the BID and at the last vote, 81 per cent of businesses voted to support it.

Its main objective in its first two terms was to create a safe, clean and animated town centre which was well promoted and to drive down operational costs for its members, For the last six years, Kingstonfirst has delivered a number of services on behalf of the Local authority. Now, at a time when funding for local authorities is reducing and many are sharing services with other local authorities in areas such as human resources, waste management and social care, there is real scope for BIDs to add even more value.

Now in its third term, it’s taking a more innovative and commercial approach to shaping the town centre via even greater collaboration with more partners. Through combined buying power, KingstonFirst offers its members enormous savings on key business services, including utilities and waste management, providing a direct financial return on their levy investment.

But it is now looking beyond its core area to offer the same services to non-BID members at a charge – the more businesses in the buying group, the greater the savings.

They are also looking at how they can bring property owners, facilities management and investors together to market the right sites in Kingston and achieve the right mix. Using technology they can they track how and what shops customers are visiting and in time may help to market a particular site for a specific type of shop. They would be able to demonstrate demand for a particular type of retail store.
Kingstonfirst sees itself as the custodian of the town, the voice of business, a critical decision maker, a driving force and a credible contributor to the success of the town It is in no doubt about the importance of its relationship with the Council which it considers a critical partner.

Kingston has worked with its local university, with Telefonica which is based locally, and a range of other partners to consider how to attract more visitors to Kingston. Digital marketing is part of its mix. In 2014, it won the London category of the Great British High Streets competition for its innovation around the market square and the integration of the market with other retail outlets and range of historic buildings.

You would probably not think of Kingston upon Thames as a market town, but its daily market, with around 30 stalls, has an estimated annual turnover of £1.3m. It has popular night markets and visiting markets too, with the end of year highlight being its Christmas Market -vital ingredients in the recipe of this flourishing town centre.
Its evening (anything after 5pm) and night-time economy is thriving and is hugely important to their mix. It runs events, from dance festivals to street activated music, has an active Pubwatch, runs Best Bar None and support its street pastors.

It was quite interesting the other day listening to Deltic talking about their venue in Kingston being one for special occasions; their customers visit infrequently – once every two or three months. KingstonFirst is well aware that reputation is important. It works closely with its pubs, bars and nightclubs, recognises the need to provide for all ages and interests and wants to create a thriving town centre which all can enjoy.

As ever, local leadership is important and this is where the Great British High Streets Pledge works so well. National and local companies encouraging their managers to become involved in local high streets, to participate in the work of BIDs, town teams, and local partnerships. Both Business in the Community and British BIDs have shown that individual retail outlets benefit in terms of footfall and income through successful high streets.

Rather obvious you might think, so all a good reason to make contact with me and sign the pledge. All I need is a letter from you agreeing to support the pledge; “I pledge to use the leadership expertise, skills and resources of my business to help UK high streets achieve their full potential”.

Brigid Simmonds
Chief Executive


Please login to comment.

Budget 2016 - the pub under pressure

On 19/02/16 by Brigid Simmonds (Chief Executive)

As we move towards the Budget on 16th March, the BBPA team is very focused on our campaign for a cut in beer duty in the Budget, and my colleague Andy Tighe, has written about how much this benefits pubs.
Yet with such a large tax burden facing pubs, there are also many other reasons why the sector really needs another duty cut.

At the end of last year, the BBPA commissioned Oxford Economics to look at the total and average tax contribution of a British Pub. It concluded that over a third of pub costs go in tax, or on average £140,000 for every pub.

This makes for a grand total of £7.3 billion, as the pub sector total tax burden. In comparison with other sectors, the pub’s tax burden was the 26th largest, despite being only the 41st largest in terms of turnover.

Despite this big burden, we are facing a perfect storm, in terms of new business costs. We estimate that the introduction of the National Living Wage will cost the pub sector £35 million in 2016/17. We want to pay our staff more but it will be a challenge, particularly for small businesses, to achieve the productivity increases to cover these costs.

The Apprenticeship Levy will cost companies several million pounds in additional costs. New auto enrolment pensions will this year result in £34 million of new costs, with the abolition of retail relief adding a further £46 million.

The Apprenticeship Levy will cost companies several million pounds in additional costs. New auto enrolment pensions will this year result in £34 million of new costs, with the abolition of retail relief adding a further £46 million. The latter is a big financial blow, adding up to £1,500 to the bill of a community pub.

Overall, the BBPA estimates that new cost and tax pressures are the equivalent of a 3.4 per cent increase in beer duty, or an additional 1.6p per pint – enough reason on its own, to justify a beer duty cut in the Budget.

So, what are we asking for to help pubs deal with these new challenges? Alongside a penny off beer duty, we are asking for a review of the stakes and prizes for Category C gaming machines. We are asking the Government to look again at VAT for the hospitality sector. We are looking to the review of Business Rates to bring more companies into the scope of paying this tax and the reinstatement of Retail Relief, or reducing the burden on pubs which after all cannot be ‘virtual’! Whilst we support the abolition of the Carbon Reduction Commitment and simplification, we are concerned that the Climate Change Levy should not place too high a tax on small businesses like pubs.

With many pressures ahead, at the end of the day, we believe that a further cut for beer duty in the Budget 2016 is the most targeted and effective way to support the Great British pub but will continue to push Government for greater support on all of these issues.

There is still time to join our campaign; just visit and email your support to your local MP.

Brigid Simmonds
Chief Executive


Please login to comment.

Street Pastors

On 17/02/16 by Brigid Simmonds (Chief Executive)

In a quiet country pub just after it opened at 11am on a Friday (Harvey’s, the Dorset in Lewes), I met Brian Arnott who leads on partnership development for the Ascension Trust who look after the growing number of Street Pastor schemes.

The Ascension Trust was formed in 1993 by a church leader in London as he sought to provide churches with the tools for participation in a 21st century society. It is now the governing body for eight church-led initiatives; the most well-known of which is street pastors. Street pastors now exist in 280 different places all over the UK. If you want to search and find one in a particular town or city, you can use this link or the Ascension Trust website.

To be a street pastor, you have to be recommended by your local church (of any denomination), undertake eight days of training spread over a number of weeks, and have a CRB check (Disclosure & Baring Service). You also have to pay a one off fee of £300 for your training.

Funding comes from a range of sources; charities like the Jerusalem Trust (owned by Sainsbury’s), local authorities, police and of course local churches.

Why are Street Pastors of interest to us? Without doubt much of the emphasis on alcohol has moved away from the Department of Health and over to the Home Office which is working on a Modern Crime Prevention Strategy to be launched in March. In a chapter on alcohol, there is likely to be mention of ‘safe areas’ as alternatives to taking people who have drunk too much to A&E. There are currently 19 safe areas operating across the UK and three are funded by street pastors. Whilst alcohol consumption has fallen 19% since 2004, there is a still a perception of problems in our towns and city centres.

The BBPA and our members support a range of partnership schemes from Best Bar None to Business Improvement Districts and Pubwatch. We perhaps need to start adding street pastors to that list and here are a few ideas which Brian and I discussed on how individual companies can help:

  • Make sure your local pubs know about a local street pastor scheme and make them welcome
  • Consider offering a room in one of your pubs for street pastor training
  • Where there is a local street pastor scheme, make sure you know how to get in touch, and if you need support, give them a call. They are all linked by mobile phone when out and about, and you can find the number on their site
  • Consider advertising support for street pastors on your website (possible poster to be considered)
  • Provide local funding

I think we have all been impressed with the work of street pastors and they are currently working out how much they save the public purse through their patrols, and the advice and help they offer. The police in Ealing believe that crime and assault cases go down 50% when they are on patrol and in Cullompton, Devon, local police highlighted a 14.3% reduction in crime after a year of a local scheme.

Brigid Simmonds
Chief Executive


Please login to comment.

Do beer duty cuts really help pubs?

On 15/02/16 by Andy Tighe (Policy Director)

With our campaign for another cut in beer duty now in full swing, it is great to be getting so much support across the trade, especially from pubs, which are receiving around 100,000 of our campaign posters and beer mats.

However, amidst all this support, we still see comments suggesting that ‘token’ one penny duty cuts don’t really help pubs; that brewers are putting up prices anyway, that it is supermarkets which benefit most – and the Government should focus on other tax reductions that would help pubs, such as business rates.

In total, 3.7 billion pints were sold in pubs and the wider on-trade, last year. That’s a lot of pennies - £37 million worth, in fact. If you add this up over the last three years and consider the increases that had been planned, that is a 10 pence per pint difference, or a £370 million per annum saving. We estimate that the effect on the price of a pint is around double this, when it comes to prices over the bar.

These are big numbers that have supported very significant additional investment in pubs since 2013, generating even greater returns. The Centre for Economic and Business Research (CEBR) estimates that 1,000 more pubs would have closed without this change in beer duty policy.

Of course, other costs in the industry can create inflationary pressures. However, Office of National Statistics inflation data shows that ex-factory gate prices for beer have fallen since Budget 2013 and price increases in pubs have been at their lowest since the 1980s, at just over 1% last year. This clearly demonstrates that the benefits of duty cuts are being passed on.

Supermarkets undoubtedly benefit from lower beer duty rates, but as we have seen over the last decade or so, pricing in supermarkets bears little correlation to beer duty changes. Between 2002 and 2013, beer duty went up 64%. Over this time, beer prices in pubs went up 48%, but prices in supermarkets went up just 8%.

After the beer duty cuts in 2013 and 2014, prices in supermarkets remained almost flat, but since June 2014, prices have fallen again, due to very aggressive pricing across all food and drink products as established supermarkets have responded to the growing threat from the discounters.

The key point is that if you are running a wet-led pub, with half of turnover coming from beer sales, a duty cut is more important to you than to a supermarket, where beer is just a small percentage of your total sales.

Of course, action on business rates and other taxes is also vital to reduce the huge overall tax burden pubs still face, and which accounts for almost £1 in every three spent in the pub. However these are also taxes borne by most other sectors and hence come with a much bigger price tag for the Treasury and are thus longer term objectives.

On a final note and perhaps most importantly of all, polling continues to show pub goers and the public in general are hugely supportive of lower beer taxes to keep a visit to the pub affordable and ultimately it is their view that matters most.

Andy Tighe
Policy Director


Please login to comment.

Parliamentary Pub Chef of the Year Competition 2016

On 28/01/16 by Brigid Simmonds (Chief Executive)

When the BBPA first approached Andrew Griffiths MP and the Parliamentary Beer Group to run a Parliamentary Pub Chef of the Year competition, we estimated that we might receive 30 nominations from MPs. 127 nominations later, from 108 MPs suggests that not only are pubs at the heart of local constituencies, but that great pub food is valued across the UK. With the support of Nestlé, who not only are interested in good coffee in pubs, but supply so many useful ingredients in the kitchen, the judges, ably coordinated by Josh Green in my team and Martyn Webster from Nestlé whittled down the 127 to a shortlist of eight for the final cook-off; four Young Chefs of the Year (aged 30 and under) and four Pub Chefs of the Year!

With huge help from Fullers who allowed our chefs to ‘cook-off’ at the Vintry pub in the City of London – one of the few pubs big enough to have four separate cooking stations and who were very generous in not only time, but the provision of some very fine, fresh ingredients, we were ready for the main event which took place on Tuesday afternoon. The judges, chefs, Paul Merrett (of Saturday Kitchen and three pubs in West London), Ashley McCarthy who runs Ye Olde Sun Inn in Colton, near York (one of the best pubs I have eaten in), Paul Dickenson (Head of Food at Fullers), Andre Prokes (who works with Nestlé), Andrew Griffiths MP and myself has the unenviable task of choosing the winner in each category. All the chefs were given a list of ingredients which would be available the day before; they had 15 minutes of preparation and then an hour to cook and plate four portions of a main course.

We began by watching the Young Chefs, who during the course of the afternoon came and sat down with the judges for a chat. Edward Hackland is head chef at the Wagon in Halam in Nottinghamshire. He serves 400 to 500 covers a week with three of them, in what he described as a very small kitchen. He grew up with a single mother and three brothers, so learnt to cook at home, but started his training at the age of 15. He is also passionate about gardening, grows much of his own food and makes all his own bread. For the competition he chose brill. Gordon Stott who is head chef at the Sun Inn in Dummer (just outside Basingstoke) at 20 became both a landlord and head chef. He looks after a team of 8 who can cook parties of up to 120 people, although the pub restaurant has only 44 covers. He is particularly passionate about teaching young people – he is the oldest in his team at now 26! He too chose to cook brill. Matt Long is head chef at the Raglan Arms, in Llandenny, Wales. His experience has included cooking for a Formula One team, travelling around the world. He is keen to train young people; his team include three young lads from the local Job Centre. He chose to cook guinea fowl. Finally in this category was Robert Yuill, who is responsible for three properties in Dundee, Scotland. He began his career in an Asda Bakery and has worked at the Gleneagles hotel and is now head chef at D’Arcy Thompson. He serves not only lunch and dinner, but afternoon tea and his fruit and vegetables, meat and fish are locally sourced. His passion is sustainability and a showcase of the Scottish larder. He chose to cook venison.

In the Pub Chef competition, we started with John Calton who runs Staith House in North Shields – he smokes his own fish and game and has started a journey into charcuterie, curing hams, salami and chorizo to broaden their offering. Local fish is their speciality, as well as aged beef and lamb. He chose to cook brill. Gordon Jones is the head chef at The Brit Pub in Port Talbot. His father was a fisherman and hunter, so seasonal produce is his passion, although he admitted to having to work hard on local people to be a little more adventurous in what they order! He also cooked brill. Michele Cremona (our only female chef) is totally self-taught. She is particularly passionate about vegetables and often makes them the main attraction in her dishes. She runs a pub through Laines Pub Company and is particularly interested in slow cooking and has a “herb hospital” in the pub. She cooked venison liver. Finally in this category we had Milan Hukal who originally hails from the Czech Republic, but has been in England for 13 years and is the head chef at the Dog Inn in Grundisburgh with five full time staff. They have their own smoker, herb garden, source a lot produce from their village and serve 300 to 400 covers a week.

I will not tell you who won, because we have wait for the result to be announced in the House of Commons on 23rd February. Suffice to say, the food was delicious, the standard high and just showed the skills which now exist to produce such fantastic food in our pubs. No wonder visiting a Great British Pub is third on the list of things to do for international visitors and four out of ten visit a pub whilst they are here! There is much we can all do with local colleges and schools to raise the profile of a working and cooking in a pub, but this short of showcase is a very good start.

Brigid Simmonds
Chief Executive


Please login to comment.

How to keep your alcohol advertising on the right side of the regulator

On 04/12/15 by Craig Jones (Director of Communications, Advertising Standards Authority)

The advertising of alcohol products is subject to stringent rules and regulations – mainly to protect children and young people from exposure and to ensure that alcohol is enjoyed responsibly.

Here at the CAP, we have responded to the demand from advertisers for greater claret-ty of what’s hop and what’s not when it comes to responsible advertising of alcoholic products. A new pint-size online training course is now available which provides an in-depth understanding of advertising rules and how to apply them.

By developing this, we’re making sure advertisers will be raising the bar when it comes to responsible promotion. This is the only training which uses real ASA rulings. The menu includes:

  • An introduction to alcohol advertising – providing an overview of the regulation and why the rules for advertising alcohol are strict
  • A comprehensive understanding of the rules by using real cases where the ASA has upheld and not upheld rulings
  • How to create responsible advertisements by learning about the common mistakes made and how to avoid them; and
  • Exercises which put learning into practice

After completing the course you won’t be blurry-eyed, rather your sprits will be raised by having an excellent understanding of how to avoid an advert hangover.

Each round costs £75 (inc. VAT), with discounted business licenses available for 10 or more users from the same organisation. Visit for more information and to enjoy your free taster.

BBPA members receive a 15% discount when they purchase e-learning. Please contact BBPA for the discount code.

Craig Jones
Director of Communications, Advertising Standards Authority


Please login to comment.


A BBPA visit to Wychwood brewery

On 02/12/15 by Brigid Simmonds (Chief Executive)

Every year, BBPA takes our team on a visit to a member company. This year we decided to go to Wychwood, famous perhaps in our most recent history for the important part it played in raising 100,000 signatories to encourage the Government to allow a debate on the beer duty escalator back in 2012. Hobgoblin was the brand which started the petition, led very much by Chris Keating who heads up their marketing and who went onto win the first Chairman’s Award at the BBPA Annual Dinner back in 2012.

Wychwood is of course owned by Marston’s, but the original brewery dates back to 1843 when it was owned by Clinch & Co. It has been through a variety of owners since then, but the modern brewery which exists today dates back to 1983. Not only is Wychwood the home of Hobgoblin, but it also brews Brakspear, which moved to Wychwood when the brewery in Henley closed in 2002. The closure of the Brakspear brewery led to the transfer of the original Brakspear Copper, dating from 1779, to the site in Whitney which was followed by the transfer of the famous Brakspear ‘Double Drop’ fermentation vessels which are still used to brew Brakspear Bitter and Brakspear Triple.

The site itself is constrained by residential housing. As a result the team at Wychwood rely on the facilities at Marston’s brewery in Burton upon Trent to help ensure that beer brewed at Wychwood reaches their loyal fans and consumers.

A fascinating and interesting visit for our team, followed by lunch at the Blue Boar owned by Oakman Inns. A great example of a modern pub, great food, good service and whilst we did not stay there, rooms available too!

Thank you to Chris, Jeff Drew and Luke for looking after us all so well.

Brigid Simmonds
Chief Executive


Please login to comment.

The end of Boozy Britain?

On 20/11/15 by Daisy Blench (Policy Manager - Responsibility)

I recently had the opportunity to speak at a debate as part of the Institute of Ideas, ‘Battle of Ideas’ festival held at the Barbican, a two day series of lively debates and conversations aiming to ‘encourage free thinking and open-ended public discussion’.

The debate’s title was ‘The end of Boozy Britain?’ and amongst other things the ‘teasers’ for the session asked us; ‘is the decline of drinking really something to be celebrated?’

I would say not, if we are talking about overall alcohol consumption – more people drinking overall does not necessarily equate to higher levels of harm if people are drinking sensibly.

Although per capita alcohol consumption has declined by around 19% since 2004, it is perfectly possible for this to go up, alongside declining levels of alcohol related harm.

This got me thinking – so often is overall alcohol consumption used a proxy for alcohol related harm in the media (and sometimes even by industry) that we sometimes lose sight of the moderate majority to whom drinking is a normal and pleasurable part of their lives.

Take the sector that myself and many others work in. Beer and pubs are a hugely important aspect of people’s lives, of local communities and of the economy and they provide something unique which we should be hugely proud of here in the UK which many from abroad want to experience.

It seems like a cliché but many life events happen in pubs - people meet partners, celebrate birthdays, wedding and christenings, share a drink or dinner and chat with friends. Working here in the City of London, and seeing people working long hours, often with little chance for a break and often in demanding jobs, my favourite bit of the day is always relaxing in one of the great pubs around here after work and seeing some of those same people unwinding, chatting and bonding with friends and colleagues over a drink.

And of course, people can choose whether or not to drink alcohol in the pub. There are now more lower-alcohol and non-alcohol drinks choices than ever before. However, alcohol for many of us is a part of socialising and relaxing. Certain recent attempts to ‘denormalise’ alcohol seem to be part of a move to get rid of anything which can potentially be misused from our lives and I believe that ultimately we will be worse off for it.

If this is my ‘ode to one of the simple pleasures in life, then alongside appreciating the social benefits of moderate consumption for the vast majority we should be equally clear on the need to focus on the harms that alcohol can cause.

As mentioned, it's hugely important to draw a clear distinction between alcohol consumption and misuse which allows a much sharper focus on the problems that remain. And of course alcohol harm is in no one’s interests, least of all those that brew beer and run pubs, and therefore the decline in recent years of a number of alcohol 'harms' is good news for all of us.

With an annual tax bill of £13 billion, the beer and pub sector more than pays the costs associated with managing the minority that go beyond pleasurable enjoyment of alcohol as well as contributing economically and socially in many ways.

Brewers and pubs also have a strong track record of involvement in alcohol responsibility initiatives from launching the Challenge 21 age verification campaign, which has contributed to a huge culture change in the acceptability of underage drinking, to ensuring that the vast majority of beer products on the market have health messaging on the label, to increasing the range of lower-strength beers available to encourage a responsible drinking culture.

However, I would stress the word encourage. Sadly there will always be those that seriously misuse alcohol to the detriment of their own health and others. However, ultimately treating people like adults is crucial. Let's not treat those who do like to have a pint or two after work as though they are doing something wrong. Whilst providing people with enough information is important, ultimately they should be free to make their own choices about whether or not to drink.

The recent coverage and debate over the Chief Medical Officer's review of the lower-risk drinking guidelines and the potential that these will be lowered has raised the question of how consumers would respond to any changes in the advice. Ultimately it will be important that any change in the advice is evidence based and clearly communicated to consumers to ensure that the advice remains useful and relevant.

The debate gets so polarised sometimes that things can get out of perspective. Refreshingly, this event, although involving a lively discussion about the importance and relevance of pubs and problems relating to excessive drinking, was more nuanced. There seemed to be some agreement that now the ‘moral panic’ around alcohol has dissipated somewhat, we can begin to have more grown-up discussion about how to target harm and the reasons why people misuse alcohol.

It would be great to see this consensus translated into sensible policy making both nationally and locally and allowing us to retain the enjoyment of alcohol and of our great British pubs for the majority but take a clear and targeted approach to tackling alcohol harm where it occurs.

Daisy Blench
Policy Manager - Responsibility


Please login to comment.

Helsinki and the Northern Region of Brewers of Europe

On 17/11/15 by Brigid Simmonds (Chief Executive)

The UK and Ireland are part of the Northern Region of Brewers of Europe and we meet on a regular basis to exchange views and learn from each other – collectively we then have one place on the Executive Committee of BoE and we make sure that we put forward positive and collaborative views.

Helsinki, 1,800 miles to the East of the UK with a population of around one million people. I last visited some 25 years ago for a conference and some of its architecture was and is stunning. It is very much ‘east meets west’ with Lutheran and Orthodox cathedrals. Given its proximity to St Petersburg, you might expect Russian Orthodox, but apparently the congregation is the responsibility of the Greek Orthodox Archbishop! Next year Finland will celebrate 100 years of independence from Russia in 1916. They are one of the few cities where you can find a monument to a Russian Tsar.

On the Gulf of Finland which leads to the Baltic Sea, Helsinki is at this time of year rather cold and dark. The sun does not rise until nearly 8.30 and car lights are on soon after 2pm. Christmas in a sense comes early as fairy lights are seen everywhere, but an impressive number of people were out running with me at 7am on Friday, although I suspect few were as aware as I was that it was still 5am in the UK!

Border trading is clearly an issues for Scandinavia; particularly with the German border where beer duty is so much lower and with Estonia where cruise ships cross backwards and forwards to Helsinki all the time. I gave an interview to a Finnish marketing magazine and newspaper, talking about the prohibitive attitude of the Finnish Government which prevents advertising of alcohol even through social media and our work in the UK on the responsibility deal and what can be achieved when Government and industry work together.

Northern countries are striving to help migrants; Sweden in particular has taken 86,000 refugees this year alone. Swedish breweries have decided to offer four months of unpaid work at their breweries to offer training and skills to help these people find new jobs.

Little did any of us know of the unfathomable cruelty and acts of terrorism which were to take place in Paris that evening. Everyone was united in wanting to help those in trouble. Their thoughts and ours are with the people of France.

Brigid Simmonds
Chief Executive


Please login to comment.