Beginnings 1982

It was the year of the Falklands War, a loaf of bread cost 37p and Steven Spielberg had everyone spell bound with a strange creature called ET. It was also the year that three industry insiders decided the UK cleaning industry needed to speak with one voice, and so formed the British Cleaning Council.

The three co-founders; David Watt, Terence King and Robert Burtinshaw, became inspired after hearing the newly installed Master of the Worshipful Company of Environmental Cleaners, David Evans, tell an audience at the Installation Banquet in 1981 that he felt all sectors of the UK cleaning industry should amalgamate to advance their common interests.

The aim of the new body would be to draw together all the many strands that go to make up the UK cleaning industry and be an umbrella organisation under which all other industry associations could convene. The objectives were to improve, health, hygiene and general cleanliness, and to raise the profile of the industry both at home and abroad.

These ideals were widely shared and a number of associations came on board right from the start. The BCC’s founder members were:  Worshipful Company of Environmental Cleaners (WCEC), Industrial Machine Manufacturers Association (ICMMA), Janitorial Supply Association (JANSA), British Association for Chemical Specialities (BACS), British Institute of Cleaning Science (BICSc),Federation of Window Cleaners (FWC),National Carpet Cleaners Association (NCA).

 The Cleaning Show

The original members were determined that the newly formed Council should not be considered a ‘talking shop’ so it was decided from the outset that the Council would need adequate funds to operate effectively. The board were adamant that they wanted to support and fund members’ schemes, and to do this properly they needed a good source of income.

The co-founders therefore decided, with the support of the BCC, to form a company; British Cleaning Council Exhibitions ltd (BCCE) which would join forces with another exhibition organiser, with the aim of setting up and promoting national and regional cleaning exhibitions.

The first joint venture company was Reed Exhibitions, followed by Turret Press, which in turn was followed in the early 90s, by Quartz Business Media, who are still the BCC’s Cleaning Show partners today.

The first jointly run event ‘BCCE 88’ was held in March 1988 at Olympia in London. The three day exhibition exceed expectations and the next show was organised for the following year.  In the 90s the show moved to the NEC in Birmingham, and then came back to London in 2015 where it presently resides.

In 2016, the format was expanded with the first Cleaning Show in Manchester, which proved a great success. The Manchester Cleaning Show is now a fixture in the sector's calendar.

The success of the Cleaning Show allowed the Council to plough funds back into the industry in the form of grants to help members’ projects. Over the years thousands of pounds have been awarded to help fledgling projects get off the ground.

The Winds of Change

From the 1980s onwards the pace of change in cleaning industry gathered momentum, with technological, economic and political forces all having a big impact.

But the BCC had arrived at the perfect time to meet this change, and was well placed to play a leading role, both by giving the industry a voice, and by being the body the industry could unite behind as the winds of change swept across the UK.

One of the biggest changes that took place was the government’s introduction of compulsory competitive tendering, which opened up the market in local authority and NHS service provision.

The contract cleaning sector exploded overnight as companies sprung up trying to win the lucrative government cleaning contracts.

At the same time this was happening a great swath of new legislation and regulations, many from the EU, were coming into play which directly affected the cleaning industry.

The Council was again perfectly positioned to help the industry meet these challenges. And through the collective wisdom and experience of its membership was able to share best practice and pass on knowledge which members could use in their everyday businesses.

With so much change happening and so many new guidelines and rules to follow, companies could see the advantages of belonging to a trade association, and the BCC’s membership continued to grow through the 90s with big associations like the CSSA, and Keep Britain Tidy coming onboard.

The Voice of the Industry

As the BCC evolved it was able to spearhead the drive for better standards in the industry. In 2010 the Council published its own manifesto to accompany the General Election, and for the first time it was able to write down its core aims and beliefs in a document that all members could sign up to.

The Council was now the undisputed voice of the industry and the manifesto highlighted its members’ priorities: Sustainability, Education and Training, Healthcare, Technology, Waste Management, Health and Safety, Public Hygiene and Specialist Cleaning.

The outbreak of the Coronavirus pandemic in 2020 gave a new spur to the drive to make sure the voice of the industry was heard in the corridors of power.

The sector and its staff performed a critical role during the pandemic, keeping the public and keyworkers safe, healthy and well. The BCC intensified its campaign for recognition for this frontline role and the importance of the industry.

The BCC led the drive for the formation of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for the Cleaning and Hygiene Industry in 2021, in order to help the sector communicate with policymakers.

The following year, it launched the We Clean, We Care campaign to reflect the pride of staff in their vital role.

The Future

The over 40 years since the BCC’s formation has brought many social, political and economic changes, but the cleaning industry has weathered all the storms that has come its way, and is today in a strong position to face the future.

The BCC’s co-founders philosophy from the start was that a collective body of professionals will always be more powerful than an individual person or company, and that is as viable today as it was in 1982.

Scroll to Top