Agenda item

Impact of Cost-of-Living Crisis on Businesses

To hear from representatives of Southwark Businesses Improvement Districts on the Impact of Cost-Of-Living Crisis on businesses:


·  Russell Dryden, Blue Bermondsey

·  Nic Durston, South Bank London

·  Natalie Raben, We are Waterloo (TBC)




The commission first heard from Russell Dryden, Manager Blue Bermondsey Business Improvement District (BID) on the following topics


  • How small businesses around the high street in Bermondsey are supported by working with the community and local partners.
  • Reduced profits for small businesses due to rising cost of products and utilities
  • Southwark Council support for small businesses in Bermondsey in setting up a bid through a BID cluster report
  • Council led High Street Challenge funding and High Street Market initiatives such as setting up a local charity to help support markets in October 2023.
  • BID forum meetings with Council and large businesses helping to develop a network beneficial to small, medium and large businesses
  • Need for BIDs to be given a budget through channels of Council’s Section-106 funding and also creating small local jobs such as cleaning contracts for local businesses.


The commission then heard from Nic Durston, Chief Executive South Bank London around the following points:


  • South Bank Employers Group (non-profit) and the setup of South Bank BID
  • Different types of business in the borough mainly comprising of hospitality and services with a few retail businesses in Oxo
  • Larger businesses in South Bank have comparatively recovered well after the pandemic
  • Unlocking the local labour market in Southwark is critical by ways of providing training and apprenticeships and employers paying London Living Wage
  • Rising energy costs and business rates revaluation leading to cost savings
  • The value of having flexible business models with regards to pricing as exhibited by hotels during the pandemic
  • Higher price points helping offset some of the costs but as inflation goes higher there is a risk factor for businesses
  • Campaigns such as Let’s do London which is a collaboration of Greater London Authority (GLA), Local Councils, BID’s and hospitality and tourism businesses that has helped retain jobs for Londoners and also has ensured businesses can continue to grow
  • Need for collaborative work between Council and businesses to face challenges in recruitment and retention
  • Need for Council to look at flexibility in channelling Central Government Funding such as grant funds to support cultural organisations which are a very important part of the ecology of hospitality and tourism businesses.
  • Successful innovative Section 106 mechanisms such as; 1% of the revenue from London Eye being channelled back into the revenue streams for BID’s on the South Bank


The commission then asked questions around the following themes:


  • Impact of inflation on rents for businesses
  • Inflation pressures and demand for pay rises in the private sector
  • Barriers to more devolution of powers to BIDs
  • Marketing of businesses in schools for work experience and apprenticeships


The commission heard from Russell that it would be beneficial for small businesses if there are further initiatives from the council to help cap rents in council owned commercial properties. The commission also learnt from Nic that more and more businesses are looking for flexibility in work spaces wherein they are not tied to long term leases and this flexibility in landlord business models is the way to the future.


The commission also heard that privately owned small businesses have downsized staff and brought in more flexible hourly contracts and temporary work. Hospitality businesses that had majority of European staff were already struggling due to Brexit and the pandemic further exacerbated the issue within their own labour market, shrinking it and causing such businesses to be open fewer days in a week. After the pandemic a lot of businesses have opted for flexible working arrangements where they can save overheads by people working from home a few days a week. Individual pays have risen keeping in line with inflation within the private sector.


Russell explained to the commission that it is important that pathways are created for local unemployed people through apprenticeships and training, BIDs have a proven track record in facilitating and supporting the local labour market. BIDs and local organisations have been successful in obtaining grants for small projects from Mayor Of London but often regulations impede the delivery of such projects.


The commission heard from Nic that Morley College which is a centre for adult education has now revised their curriculum to reflect local employer needs and regular meetings are taking place between the college and 10 BIDs to discuss the needs of employers, building a stronger network for the local labour market.

The commission also noted that there is a need for small local businesses to have the opportunity and support to get local projects and that this is an area where the Council’s local economy team could get involved.