Let's take up Ted's offer to fund a trade group

By The PMA Team

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Licensees

Charity: groups need funding
Charity: groups need funding
An effective representative body for licensees will take funding — even if that money comes from the pubcos, says The PMA Team.

I'd never fault anyone for volunteering for more work — or questioning the status quo.

So well done to Herefordshire licensee Ed Davies for floating the idea of setting up another independent body to represent licensees. There are plenty of groups already purporting to fulfil this role — and a lot of them do sterling work. But I do doubt whether further fragmentation of licensee representation is the answer.

Davies is right to question whether licensees have effective representation. Even Enterprise Inns boss Ted Tuppen has acknowledged there has been a vacuum — and offered at least £100,000 to fund the right body. (Tuppen didn't put a ceiling on the quantity of cash that he'd provide, arguing, quite generously that the "right" sum of money would be governed by the resources needed to do the job effectively.)

I understand that, 20 months on from Tuppen's offer, nobody from the groups that represent licensees has even organised a meeting with him to explore the suggestion.

The reasons are obvious — anyone who took Enterprise cash to fund work on behalf of licensees would be accused of being tainted by it. The Fair Pinters, in particular, would have a field day, claiming the recipient was now "in the pocket" of the large pubcos.

The Fair Pinters have their own agenda — the abolition of the tie — and believe the large pubcos are incapable of meaningful change.

I believe that meaningful change is being achieved right now — and a self-confident and trusted representative body should receive the industry's backing in taking the pubcos' cash if it can do a more effective job on behalf of licensees. We need to be grown up about this — and not worry about the flak that will fly.

Ultimately, the market will decide whether the tie is being operated sensibly — and in the meantime licensees need effective representation on a case-by-case basis and a national voice. I challenge the BII and its chief executive, Neil Robertson, to hold this long-delayed meeting with Enterprise soon.

The BII is already growing to fill the vacuum with the setting up of the Pubs Independent Rent Review Scheme (PIRRS) and expansion into the area of mediation. All of this has been done within existing resources, but, by definition, there's a limit to how fast and how far you can travel with nothing in the tank.

The BII is easily the largest and most vigorous licensee representative body in the sector. A mature pub industry needs to accept that the BII is a trustworthy broker — and should receive proper funding, if it needs it, from the largest companies. Its membership has been reluctant in the past to see the BII take on a more political role.

But it's already moved to a far more "boundaryless" position — and should go further on behalf of the industry in giving licensees a voice and affordable mechanisms that can resolve their issues.

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