The new Pubs Code Adjudicator (PCA), Paul Newby, has pleaded for a period of “reflection and calm” following criticism of his appointment by pubco reform campaigners and tenant groups.
Speaking exclusively to the Publican’s Morning Advertiser ahead of starting work this week, Newby said he would be meeting all stakeholder groups this month — in advance of the code’s implementation on 26 May — including the most vociferous opponents of his appointment, such as the British Pub Confederation (BPF) and Save the Pub Group chair Greg Mulholland MP.
Campaigners have argued there are grounds for a legal challenge to Newby’s appointment, and would be seeking a judicial review if he did not resign from his role, due to what they consider a conflict of interest arising from his previous role as a chartered surveyor at property agents Fleurets.
Newby said he was “surprised by the strength of the reaction” and there has been “a lot of things said that are untrue” but wanted to “rise above it”. He said: “This has been a long road for those supporters of the pubs code and I have great admiration for their tenacity and what they have achieved.
“But I must say, as someone who has acted many times on tenants’ side, I have seen the long running difficulties between pubcos and tenants. I’m a great supporter of making the relationship between tenants and the pubcos fairer and more transparent — that is what my role is.”
Newby also launched an impassioned defence of his CV and dispute resolution work. He said to object to his appointment is “a bit like saying a judge who was once a criminal barrister, representing criminals, can’t be a judge”. But this comment is now being used against him by campaigners.
He added: “To characterise me as someone who only works, or predominantly works with pubcos is frankly incorrect. If you read through the Fleurets brochure, it doesn’t show a firm beholden to pubcos. Yes, they work for pubcos, but it’s only part of it. You need to remember the number of cases that I’ve dealt with personally, and the number Fleurets dealt with overall, is miniscule compared to the 12,000 [tied] pubs we’re talking about.”
Newby even highlighted specific examples of property sales put on social media in attempts to show his ‘pubco bias’ where he had, in fact, been representing the tenant. “I believe it’s my ability to see everything from all angles that makes me the best candidate.”
But Newby did admit that despite no longer being a shareholder, he did still have financial connections to Fleurets. He said this would be declared and didn’t believe it to be a conflict of interest. “It is what it is. I don’t think it makes any difference to my role.”
■ The Big Interview with Paul Newby will appear in an upcoming issue