Dear Kris Hopkins MP,
On behalf of the PMA’s readers, may I extend to you a very warm welcome in your new capacity as the community pubs minister.
I can’t think of a better ministry in Government. You have the capacity to make life easier and more profitable for the licensees who run this country’s 50,000 or so pubs and bars and who, in doing so, bring so much joy and happiness to its population, and provide so many jobs for its young people.
No other country in the world outside of the British Isles has anything like the relationship that we enjoy with our pubs. It’s a special and unique thing that our nation and its legislators should cherish and protect.
And sadly it does need protecting. Despite the improving economy – for which your Government deserves much credit – pub numbers are still in decline. At the last count, we were losing 28 per week net, equivalent to almost 1,500 or 3% of the UK estate per year.
And while a proportion of those can be explained by falling demand occasioned by changing consumer habits, much of it has to do with the rising costs and unfair competition faced by pubs.
The business rates system works against pubs (fact). The tax system, especially VAT, works against pubs (fact). And many argue that the tied-tenancy system works against pubs (though good luck establishing the facts of that one).
You’ll be hailed and abused in equal measure as pubs minister, because it will be impossible for you to please everyone. Your predecessor Brandon Lewis was, despite achieving two unprecedented beer duty cuts. And yet I know he loved his pubs brief – more so, I’m certain, than his fire brigade responsibilities (which I congratulate you on avoiding)!
It was encouraging to hear Brandon say that we’ll be “well looked after” on your watch. And even more so to hear you tell the Ilkley Gazette: “As someone who loves nothing more than visiting my local pub, I greatly welcome the opportunity to work with brewers, landlords and patrons to support community pubs, which are so important to so many cities, towns and villages and which support many thousands of jobs across the country.”
Like you, I arrived not so long ago as a newcomer to the sector – my direct experience limited to some bar work in my late teens and a regular pub customer’s perspective. But the beauty of the pub trade is that all such viewpoints are valid and valuable. And you will be able to build on them quickly as your knowledge deepens.
Meet lots of pub people, listen to their hopes and concerns, and do whatever you can to make a positive difference to this economically and socially important industry. I look forward to working with you to that end.
The Publican’s Morning Advertiser