Simon Hollingbery became chairman of the British Cleaning Council in the summer of 2015, becoming the first BCC chairman from the public sector. He is also the building cleaning services manager at Reading Borough Council, and chairman of ABCD, (The Association of Building Cleaning DSPs) who are members of the BCC.
CHT caught up with Simon at the recent Manchester Cleaning Show at Event City, and started by asking him about the new regional cleaning event
We are delighted with the Manchester Cleaning Show. Attendance over the two days has been confirmed at just under 2,500, which is many more than we thought when we were planning it with our partners Quartz. It comes off the back of a really successful cleaning show at the Excel in London last year, and with things going so well in Manchester we’re set to hold it again in two years’ time. It shows that the cleaning industry is on the up, and very buoyant at the moment.
Why did you put yourself forward for chairman of the BCC?
I’d been deputy chairman to Doug Cooke for two years, but Doug found he needed more time to spend on his own company Principle Cleaning, so he decided to step down from the chairman’s duties. I’m actually planning to retire in two years, so I put myself forward to fill the chairman’s chair for just two years, and I’ll be passing the baton on again next year.
Do you have any changes planned for the BCC?
I think we’ve become a lot more proactive towards our members over the last 12 months. We’ve set up a number of working groups to look at issues that concern the membership, and these groups will be reporting back to the board in due course. We’re currently developing a new business plan to take us through the next three years, and again, this is being driven by BCC members.
What are your priorities for your two year tenure?
Once we have the business plan in place then the priority will be to deliver as much of it as we can. The last BCC manifesto was written just before the 2010 election – when Gordon Brown was still prime minister! The world has moved on quite a lot since then. So getting the business plan in place is a big priority. Also, our focus is now moving on to the next cleaning show at the Excel in London in March 2017, which promises to be the biggest yet.
Being the first BCC chairman from the public sector, have you noticed any differences between the public and private sectors, and does that mean you have to run things differently compared to predecessors?
The differences between public and private aren’t as pronounced as you may think in the cleaning industry. At the end of the day we’ve all got the same objectives. The biggest challenge the whole of the industry has faced in recent times was the big recession of 09/10, after the banking crash. The shockwaves were felt across the sector and we’ve all have to change the way we operate. But, thankfully, that is behind us and now and the emphasis is very much on bringing this very diverse industry together, through events like the Cleaning Show.
Is there any expansion plans for the BCC?
No expansions plans as such, although we have welcomed two new members in the last 12 months; The British Pest Control Association, and The Domestic Cleaning Alliance. That brings us up to 21 members, but we remain open for new members, if an organisation fits our criteria.
What are your thoughts on the state of the cleaning industry, both at present and in the future?
The industry is going through a bit of a revolution at the moment. This in part is being driven by the Living Wage, but also with things like daytime cleaning, new technologies and better training. The BCC has also got close ties with the immigration authorities and we’re trying, with them to cut out a lot of the illegal practices that goes on with within the cleaning industry. So there’s big changes taking place and but I think the industry is getting stronger, and we’re now takling head on some of the challenges, like low pay, that have dogged us for so long.
What will be the effect of the recent Living Wage introduction on the cleaning industry?
We welcome the Living Wage as it will force less scrupulous operators to pay the going rate, and that is the right thing to do. One of the BCC’s core values is to fight for the dignity of the cleaning operative, and so we believe paying staff a decent living wage is not only a moral issue, it can actually be beneficial to the business, as staff are more likely to stay with the company.
What is the cleaning industry’s place within the larger FM sphere? Should cleaning be subsumed this way?
Building cleaning will always stand on its own because it’s so specialised. Some areas like street cleaning for instance FM wouldn’t get involved in, so there’ll always be a need for specialised cleaning contractors. An example of that can be found with the CSSA who recently re-launched. They had been set to join Building Futures Group (before its demise) but members wanted it to remain independent, partly because it filled a highly skilled niche market.
At both FMJ and CHT we often hear complaints from cleaners about being overlooked and under trained. Of course it is a relatively low paid, high turnover industry but do cleaning firms (big boys in particular) need to treat staff better?
Respect for cleaning operatives is very important, and is something all BCC members buy into. We believe in good quality training, and encourage it wherever possible. But there are also good financial reasons why companies should treat employees well. Decent pay and conditions and good quality training can go a long way to reducing staff churn, and can actually improve productivity.
Will recent initiatives like the EHRC campaign improve the lot of cleaners?
The BCC was part of the EHRC’s taskforce and is fully behind the ‘Know Your Rights at Work campaign.’ We’d like to encourage all cleaning contractors to use their influence to promote fairness, dignity and respect for cleaning operatives in all corners of our industry. Hopefully campaigns like this can help and be part of a wider process to make our industry better and fairer.
The British Cleaning Council is the voice of the UK cleaning industry. It was established in 1982 to coordinate the affairs of the industry and to be responsible at home and abroad on industry matters.
The BCC provides a forum for members to meet and work together to raise the profile of the industry and help it gain the credibility it deserves. It also promotes and encourages improvements in health, hygiene and general cleanliness standards.
The BCC has 21 members, which cover every facet of the multi-million pound UK cleaning industry.
Along with Quartz Publishing & Exhibitions, the British Cleaning Council co-owns the world-renowned Cleaning Show. This is a regular and well-regarded exhibition held at the ExCel Centre London every two years, and is a highlight of the international cleaning industry calendar.
The aim is to provide a showcase that both reflects and caters for the UK industry`s needs, with BCC ploughing profits back into the industry, helping us pursue our policy of furthering the educational, training and promotional needs of its member bodies.