BBPA chair: accept living wage - or face intervention

By MC Allegra FS

- Last updated on GMT

Neame: "“Statutory intervention in any sector is always unwelcome."
Neame: "“Statutory intervention in any sector is always unwelcome."

Related tags: National living wage, Minimum wage, Living wage

Jonathan Neame, the chairman of the British Beer and Pub Association, has urged the sector to embrace the challenges of the national living wage or face further legislation.

He also said statutory intervention in the pub sector was at least partly due to the “fragmented and incoherent” voice in which the industry has represented itself.

Speaking at last night’s annual BBPA dinner, he praised the efforts the sector has made in lobbying for duty cuts but said it had not always helped its cause.

He said: “There will be some areas where Parliament will choose to intervene in our commercial freedoms and of course pub company reform is one of those. Perhaps they have done so precisely because our industry on that particular issue was fragmented and did not give a single coherent view of the state of the market.

“Time will tell who will be the winners and losers in that debate but for everyone here that works in the sector and all our licenses across the country it seems inconceivable to imagine a market that is more dynamic, innovative and exhilarating and of course more competitive with very tough commercial challenges for operators small and large alike.

“What is very important to keep articulating is the cumulative impact of all our efforts is increasingly providing positive outcomes for society and our economy. Employment into hospitality is up 9% over the past few years, brewer numbers have grown to 1,700 and the rate of pub closures are now stabilising such that the rate of decline is as low as it has been for some time.

“Statutory intervention in any sector is always unwelcome and perhaps for the time being we can hope and expect this Parliament to be more business friendly than many others.”

“We need to take this opportunity to really articulate a comprehensive and positive narrative about everything this sector is doing to modernise and grow. We must put our consumers, licensees and communities at the heart of every decision we make and build on our reputation as landlords.

“If we do not take this opportunity or if we revert to type as that fragmented, divided industry more interested in petty internal squabbles or negative stances on social policy issues then be assured we will be easy pickings for any future Government looking to raise revenue or kerb commercial freedoms.

“This is the moment to up our game and reinforce our role as a vital catalyst in society for stimulating jobs and investment. So, when it comes to nitty gritty issues and tough cost challenges such as the National Living Wage, we need to be very careful how we respond. We need to recognise that the key theme of the last Parliament was the volume of jobs and particularly young persons’ jobs but that the key theme of this Parliament is going to be the quality of jobs, the levels of skills in our workforce, pay rates and productivity. Therefore we need to confront realities such as this and business rates and convert it into an opportunity to revaluate the vital role our staff play in our industry and use this as an opportunity to shed the image that has bedevilled this industry for so long that we are a low paid, low aspiration sector.

“If we do not move with the times then by the end of this Parliament there may be alternative voices for greater intervention and we may start to look like the same out-dated industry with old fashioned ideas as we did 10 years ago.”

Related topics: Legislation

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