We were promised a “pub-friendly” regime, and it’s fair to say this one has been more benign than its Labour predecessors, not least because it ended the hated alcohol duty escalator and took 1p off a pint for two consecutive Budgets.
The whole industry united and worked really hard to campaign for this result, and we can be rightly proud of what we achieved (in competition with claims for tax cuts from almost every other business sector). Crucially, at every step of the way, we felt we were being listened to by the pubs minister and his colleagues in the Treasury and the wider coalition.
But sadly, since the ministerial reshuffl e in July, we feel we have lost some of the access and infl uence we earned through that process. The help with beer duty was hugely appreciated, but it is not a panacea for all of the pub industry’s ills.
There is so much more that our legislators, and you in particular, could do to improve the lives and business fortunes of pub licensees, including: ending other tax disparities; reforming business rates; cutting more red tape; incentivising staff employment and training; backing the Publican’s Morning Advertiser’s Make Some Noise campaign; and ensuring the creation of a fair and proportionate statutory code to govern the tenant/pubco relationship.
Some of these things are outside of your direct control, but your support would be welcome. I fully appreciate you have a broad ministerial brief that comprises: local government; adult social care; homelessness; wind farms and solar energy; and community pubs. But I would urge you not to not to forsake the last on the list, which is by no means least.
Maybe we were spoiled by your predecessor Brandon Lewis MP, who was deeply engaged and busy on his pubs brief, despite also having the Fire Service and traveller communities to deal with!
On his handover to you, Brandon said we’d be “in good hands”, but it feels like we’ve slipped through your fingers.
This is all the more disappointing considering I was led to believe there was intense competition for the pubs ministry – which must be one of the best jobs in Government for someone who, as you have claimed, is passionate about the on-trade.
When you were appointed, I did warn you that you’d inevitably be both praised and criticised – because it’s hard to please all pub people all of the time.
But you’ve avoided any sort of feedback by doing nothing noticeable. Without wishing to sound impertinent, but in case I’ve missed something, can I ask: what have you done for pubs in the 112 days since your appointment?
I can see very little mention of pubs on your otherwise very active Twitter account, nothing on your personal website’s news feed and barely anything on a general Google News search for ‘Kris Hopkins pubs’.
And while I am informed that you have visited a few pubs and beer festivals, and that you have a series of pubco and brewery meetings lined up, I’ve not seen you at a single pub industry event. There are now only six months to the general election, and people’s thoughts will naturally turn to the effectiveness of their representatives.
What is your promise to Britain’s pub licensees? And what will be the legacy of your community pubs ministry? Because I just don’t know.
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