Time for pubs minister to speak up on issues that matter

By Mike Berry

- Last updated on GMT

Time for pubs minister to speak up on issues that matter

Related tags National living wage Campaign for real ale Public house

The end of any year is naturally a time for reflection and a chance to review the past 12 months.

I hope 2015 has been positive and profitable for your business.

At a macro level, benign economic conditions has meant the cost of living has fallen, with wage growth outstripping inflation resulting in people’s disposable income rising. Alongside this, research repeatedly shows that consumer appreciation of pubs is growing — they continue to play an important role in the British psyche and remain a popular leisure choice.

Looking specifically at our sector, we may, in future, remember 2015 as a momentous year for the trade — but will it necessarily be for the right reasons?

A pubs code finally made it onto the statute book (the full impact of which will not be known for some time), pub planning law has been bolstered in the form of enhanced protection for those listed as assets of community value (ACV), and a new national living wage (NLW) has been dropped on the trade, which will add significantly to operating costs.

The two biggest pubcos — Enterprise and Punch — both revealed strategies to reduce their tenanted and leased estate and take more pubs under direct management. Others continue to dispose of sites and restructure their operations. Seismic shifts are under way.

When the PMA spoke to David Cameron ahead of last May’s general election, he defended his government’s record in supporting the pub trade — and promised that help would continue if he was re-elected.

Some seven months into his new tenure that support has yet to materialise. In fact, many of you would argue it’s been the direct opposite. The NLW will mean a steep increase in wage costs; the removal of retail relief adds to pubs’ rates bills; VAT continues to be a huge burden; beer duty — although cut for the past three years — remains far too high. Then there’s the red tape around regulations on, for example, allergens, employment and licensing.

Cutting the burden of these should be the priorities for action next year for the Government.

Writing this week, community pubs minister Marcus Jones​ attempts to accentuate the positive by citing Government support for various initiatives such as Pub is the Hub, the Pub Loan Fund (anyone?) and CAMRA’s List Your Local campaign on ACVs.

This barely scratches the surface for the vast majority of licensees who are in need of far more substantive help. Rather than look for the next pint-pulling photo opportunity, Jones needs to start getting his voice heard in Westminster on the issues that really matter for pubs. Let that be his New Year’s resolution.

Related topics Legislation

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