Percy, who made the comments in a wide-ranging interview due to appear shortly in The Morning Advertiser, said although some groups have taken advantage of the £3.62m support and finance programme to assist in taking control of their local pubs, he urged others to take advantage.
The Community Pub Business Support Programme, dubbed 'More than a Pub', was launched by former pubs minister Marcus Jones at a Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) reception in March this year.
More than a Pub is a comprehensive package of business development support, advice, and loan-and-grant funding being delivered to community groups in England to help them establish community-owned pubs.
Community groups can access this package to bring social, economic and environmental benefits to communities by:
- Providing access to public services and facilities for those who are socially excluded
- Promoting employment and training in areas of high social need
- Acting as a hub for community groups and providing volunteering, citizenship and community development
The programme aims to support 80 community-owned pubs to open over two years and will offer a flexible package of support including access to an advice line.
Examples given by Percy included the Sir Charles Napier in Blackburn, Lancashire, and the Centurion in Chester, Cheshire, both of which have been saved due to intervention from local communities looking to run the pubs as a community asset.
Percy said, in many villages, the only remaining community space was the pub and, as a result, it is crucial for the social wellbeing of such localities. One example of such a venue is the Anglers Rest in Bamford, Derbyshire, which acts as a local post office, café and meeting space.
Percy, who took over from Marcus Jones as pubs minister during prime minister Theresa May's summer reshuffle, is now encouraging more people to come forward to run their much-beloved boozers.
Percy said: “As the first pubs start pouring pints, we want other groups to apply for our £3.62m fund if they want support to keep their pubs at the heart of local life.
“Although being behind the bar might not be right for everyone, we know that lots of people dream of having their own Queen Vic or Rovers Return.
“That’s why we’re proud of the communities in Blackburn and Chester, and want to support them and others to help the national asset that is the great British pub, which provides thousands of jobs and boosts the economy by £21bn a year.”