A senior trade figure has called for a single united trade body to represent licensees — as yet another group launched this week.
Hereford licensee Ed Davies, manager of the Kilvert's Inn, Hay-on-Wye, said the new free-to-join Society of Licensees would conduct a monthly members' survey on topical issues, publish the results and, where appropriate, submit the findings to Government.
Davies praised the BII for training and networking, but said it did not "seem to be interested in countering negative claims in the press".
"No one organisation speaks to licensees, canvasses opinion and asks what we want," he said.
However, the launch of yet another trade body has sparked criticism and calls for a merger of groups such as the Federation of Licensed Victuallers Associations (FLVA), Guild of Master Victuallers (GMV), Justice for Licensees and even the BII.
Too many trade bodies
"Too many trade bodies gives out a confusing message — especially to the
Government," said BII trade consultant Phil Dixon, who floated the idea of setting up a separate arm of the BII to act as a national representative body for tenants last year.
"There needs to be one clear, coherent national organisation, but the smaller groups don't want to merge and lose their identities.
"The time is long overdue now and we should be talking about forming one group. The current economics aren't sustainable enough in recession to survive."
Martin Caffrey, operations director of the FLVA, said: "We are a body for licensees and we act on their behalf. I don't think the industry needs another body."
Bill Sharpe, founding member of the GMV and chairman of the umbrella Independent Pub Confederation, said he would rather co-operate with the BII from a distance. "It would be obvious for the FLVA to join the IPC and work with the Guild," he said. "We all need to work together for the good of licensees and not see pubs swept away in a sea of red tape and bureaucracy."
Justice for Licensees founder Inez Ward said she would welcome a "completely independent" unified body. "As long as it was built on honesty and transparency, I wouldn't have a problem. Pubcos could provide funding, but that should be the end of their involvement."
Dixon raised further concerns about how a free-to-join organisation could work. "You can't provide coherent benefits," he said.
"BII chief executive Neil Robertson is one of the most intelligent people I've ever worked with and the second most influential person in the trade, according to the Morning Advertiser — how does Ed Davies think he is going to top that?"
But beer writer Pete Brown, author of the Cask Report, backed the new Society of Licensees. "Originally I was alarmed at the idea of yet another trade body. But having read through the idea in a bit more detail it does seem like a good one."