Election 2010: 'Pub Politics' survey results in full

By James Wilmore

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Cent, Voting

With all the main political parties having launched their manifestos - and polling day less than three weeks away - election fever is reaching...

With all the main political parties having launched their manifestos - and polling day less than three weeks away - election fever is reaching boiling point.

But what are the issues that are really of concern to the pub trade and what should be done about them?

To find out we compiled an online survey covering all the topics concerning the industry. Overall 240 people replied to our survey. Of these, 71 per cent (169) were licensees. Here we look in detail at what came back.

Who will you vote for?

As small business operators, licensees are traditionally Tory voters. And with the resurgence of the Conservatives under David Cameron and the staleness of Labour, it appears publicans are reverting to type with 46 per cent saying they will vote Tory.

Just two per cent said they will put a cross in the box for Labour on May 6. However, the politicians still have much to play for in terms of licensee votes - 31 per cent said they are currently undecided.

The main issues

Respondents were given seven issues to vote on what they think should be the priorities for any future government. Scrapping the alcohol duty escalator received the most votes (143), closely followed by tighter controls on off-trade pricing (141).

Change to the beer tie received 97 votes overall, with 58 respondents naming it as their top priority. Sneaking in at fourth place was "repeal the blanket smoking ban", followed by calls for a reduction in red tape.

Alcohol duty

Scrapping the duty escalator is a very popular measure, with 97 per cent of respondents saying they would like to see it go. And 91 per cent want to see a lower tax rate for lower-ABV products, such as beer.

Meanwhile, since the survey, cider tax has become a major election issue. Last month Labour hiked duty on the drink by 10 per cent above inflation. But this increase will now expire at the end of June, after the Tories forced Labour to drop it when Parliament dissolved.

The Conservatives say they would drop the blanket cider hike, nicknamed the 'Wurzel' tax, but will instead increase duty on super-strength beers, ciders and "alcopops".

Off-trade pricing

The Tories appear to be in tune with licensees on their policy to ban below-cost selling in the off-trade. Ninety-four per cent of licensees said they wanted a law banning this practice.

Minimum pricing is a relatively popular proposal to tackle the problem, with 64 per cent (150) of publicans saying they want to see this measure introduced. Labour has so far shied away from this idea.

In this respect, the Tories could have stolen a march by promising to ban below-cost selling. Of course, if Cameron's party is elected, the question remains - how? With the health lobby growing ever more vocal over their calls to tackle alcohol-related problems, the issue of off-trading pricing is sure to rumble on.

The beer tie
One issue any future government is sure to hear a lot about is the current debate around the pubco model. Campaigners have been buoyed recently by government threats to force the pubcos to offer a free-of-tie and a guest beer option for their licensees.

Labour has followed this up with a formal commitment on this in its election manifesto.

The Conservatives, however, have not addressed this in their manifesto, although they do agree that pubcos should face the threat of government intervention.

Being free-of-tie seemed to appeal to survey respondents, with 81 per cent saying this option should be law. And 87 per cent said there should be a law giving tenants the option of a guest beer. Sixty-seven per cent want to see a Competition Commission inquiry into the beer tie.

Licensing

The Tories' pledge to "overhaul" the Licensing Act is unlikely to go down well with licensees. Out of the publicans responding to our survey, 76 per cent said they were "happy" with the current regime. However, 61 per cent said they would like to see less red tape, while separately, 91 per cent want less red tape and costs around putting on live music.

The smoking ban

Despite having been in place now for nearly three years, the smoking ban continues to provoke the ire of licensees. Only 10 per cent want to see it completely overturned, but 65 per cent would like to see it partially overturned, with the option of a separate smoking room.

Trade groups

Nearly a third (31 per cent) said they were not happy with how they were represented and wanted "better representation from one single trade body, union or similar".

Sky

The amount that satellite broadcaster Sky charges licensees to screen live sport continues to be a major bone of contention. Eighty-three per cent of respondents agreed there should be a competition inquiry into the prices Sky charges pubs and that the service is "way too expensive" for the level of trade it brings in.

Just one thing...

What licensees said would be the one thing the government could do to help them…

"Resign​" - was the response from three people

"Address the issues caused by supermarkets selling cheap booze​"

"Raise the age limit in off-licences to 21, keep the on-trade at 18​"

"Allow indoor smoking areas at the licensee's discretion​"

"Reduce duty on draught products, anything that would give the pub a slight advantage over supermarkets​"

"Legislate against the unfair pubco tie​"

The Publican manifesto

Based on the results of our survey we will be writing letters to the main political parties. Here's what we'll be asking for:

• Scrap the alcohol duty escalator

• Tackle irresponsible supermarket pricing

• Make the beer tie business model fairer

• Review the smoking ban in light of its impact on trade

• Cut red tape for pubs

Get in touch with your candidates!

Find your local candidates on the BBC Election 2010 website here

Related topics: Other operators

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