Pubs code adjudicator in plea for ‘constructive discussion’

By Claire Churchard contact

- Last updated on GMT

'Work with me': PCA's plea to industry
'Work with me': PCA's plea to industry

Related tags: Tenants, Pubs code, Paul martin newby

Pubs code adjudicator (PCA) Paul Newby has urged critics of his office to “put hostility aside” and meet with him for “a constructive discussion”. 

The adjudicator’s office was set up to monitor the code, which came into force in July 2016​, and support tied tenants in understanding and accessing their rights around transitioning to the market-rent-only (MRO) option.

Newby and his office have faced intense scrutiny and criticism from the start​. In January, the British Pub Confederation (BPC) published a report​ claiming the pubs code is failing tenants, saying the PCA was not helping tied tenants get easy access to the MRO option. Reasons for this stated in the BPC’s report included failing to issue deeds of variation to the lease, high fees for independent rent assessors and tenants not being made aware of the opportunity to take MRO.

However, in a letter to the industry published today, Newby said: “This open letter is an invitation to my critics to work with me to turn a vision of a better future for tenants into reality today.”

He admitted that the task of the PCA is large but insisted that the priority from the beginning has been to inform tenants of their new rights and protections, and help people access them.

In the first six months, Newby said he has received 121 referrals for arbitration, with that number continuing to rise.

“I am now asked: ‘When will the first arbitrations be concluded?’ Of course, I would like to be able give a date but, unfortunately, there isn’t a straightforward answer. My arbitration team and I are making great progress but I only have limited influence over how fast the process advances. The parties in any dispute have significant control on timing.” 

Newby also said that because the code is relatively new, many of the issues raised are the first of a kind and take some time to resolve.

He added that good work was being done but was disappointed so much PCA effort and resources were being spent responding to campaigners, who he said “opposed my appointment and seek every opportunity to criticise”.

However, he added that the code is the law and “inevitably it will not have met everyone’s expectations perfectly – it never could”.

But he emphasised that it was “crucial” to make the code work for tenants.

“That’s why I have repeatedly invited those who have not been sure about working with me as PCA to meet for constructive discussions about what we can achieve together,” he wrote.

“My invitation remains open. Let’s put hostility aside to make sure that the new rights and protections under the code work.”

Full letter from Paul Newby, pubs code adjudicator

I took on the role of Pubs Code Adjudicator with a mission to make a difference. I am passionate about wanting to see our pubs thrive and for tied pub tenants to have a fair deal.    This open letter is an invitation to my critics to work with me to turn a vision of a better future for tenants into reality today.

With 30 years’ experience as a Chartered Surveyor in the sector I know the issues and understand how the Pubs Code is the result of legitimate concerns raised by many people over many years.

My team and I have been working determinedly since Day One of the Code on 21 July 2016.  The scale of the task facing us is large but from the start the priority has been to inform tenants of their new rights and protections and help them access them.  

Overwhelmingly, the response of tenants I meet is positive and there is confidence in the PCA.   In the first six months I have received 121 referrals for arbitration and the number continues to rise. 

I am now asked: “When will the first arbitrations be concluded?”  Of course I would like to be able give a date but unfortunately there isn’t a straightforward answer.  My arbitration team and I are making great progress but I only have limited influence over how fast the process advances.  The parties in any dispute have significant control on timing. 

Why is this so?  At each stage of arbitration both tenants and pub-owning businesses have to respond with information or views, or take action independently of the PCA, to allow the process to move forward. 

At any point they can together ask for the process to be halted while they continue discussions between them.  The Code is new, and inevitably many of the issues raised are the first of a kind and take some time to resolve.

I am also working on the information I am receiving from tenants, other individuals including MPs, and representative organisations about the Code. This is beginning to build up and I am working hard to analyse the information so I have good intelligence to support action I will take. 

Yes, I have the power to carry out investigations but I also want to use my office to achieve cultural change where it is needed and I am building a good picture of what is happening so I can raise issues with the pub-owning businesses.

So there is good work happening, and I am bitterly disappointed that even now a great deal of PCA effort and resources is spent responding to campaigners, who opposed my appointment and seek every opportunity to criticise.

The Code is the law and I will work within it at all times.  Inevitably it will not have met everyone’s expectations perfectly - it never could.  But it is crucial we make it work for tenants. That’s why I have repeatedly invited those who have not been sure about working with me as PCA to meet for constructive discussions about what we can achieve together.

My invitation remains open.  Let’s put hostility aside to make sure that the new rights and protections under the Code work.

Paul Newby, Pubs Code Adjudicator

Related topics: Legislation

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