Industry bodies to urge minister to ‘stop extraordinary pubs rates rises’

By Liam Coleman

- Last updated on GMT

Action plea: industry bodies are calling for a rethink on business rates revamp
Action plea: industry bodies are calling for a rethink on business rates revamp

Related tags Business rates British pub confederation House of lords Westminster system

Three pub industry bodies and a group of MPs plan to write an open letter to government communities secretary Sajid Javid urging the minister to take "immediate action” to stop the “extraordinary rises in business rates for pubs”.

British Pub Confederation chair Greg Mulholland revealed plans to The Morning Advertiser ​(MA​) to send a joint letter, following an event held at parliament to discuss business rates. Mulholland said it will be signed by the British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA) and Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers (ALMR) and 20 MPS and will also be sent to Prime Minister Theresa May and Chancellor Philip Hammond.

Mulholland said the letter will call for "immediate action or an immediate announcement from the Government to ensure that the extraordinary rises in business rates for pubs are not going to happen".

Mulholland believes that the rises in rates are so significant that they will "lead to the direct closure of pubs" if no action is taken before the new business rates take effect on 1 April 2017.

But the MP was not willing to speculate on whether the finalised letter would call for a cap on rate rises, as seen in Scotland, or a fund for rate relief, as proposed in Wales. He did emphasise that it would be important for all campaigners to call for the same thing. 

"The most important thing is that the Government do something,” he told MA​. “Today we have managed to get the shared views of the BBPA, ALMR and British Pub Confederation. The best chance for success is if we call for the same thing but, in the end, I don't think the businesses will mind how this is done," he said.

Mulholland added that the business rates system would need a long-term rethink.

"If the Government values pubs like it says it does, it will need to look, long term, at the whole system of taxation for pubs across the board.

"The system needs to recognise the helpful value and community role that pubs play. That is why I think there needs to be a different classification for community pubs, as opposed to bars, nightclubs and other forms of licensed premises."

Newby meeting refusal

The Liberal Democrat MP also restated his opposition to Paul Newby, the pubs code adjudicator.

The PCA wrote an open letter to his critics, of which Mulholland is one, asking them to meet with him and have constructive discussions.

However, Mulholland told MA​ that he would not be willing to meet with Newby. "If we had any confidence in Mr Newby, we would take cases to him, but tenants are taking cases to him and are hearing nothing so I don't see the point in sitting down and meeting with him," he said.

Earlier this year, the MP proposed a motion in parliament calling for a rethink on Newby's appointment, which was approved by MPs.

Mulholland also confirmed he would be meeting with Government minister Margot James to discuss a BPC report​ criticising Newby's work.

‘In the interest of localism’

This week has seen the House of Lords back​ an amendment to pub planning laws, which had previously been proposed​ by Mulholland. The amendment tabled by Lord Kennedy would mean that planning permission would be required to change the use of a pub.

Mulholland said he would reserve judgment on whether the change would become law – something that will still require the approval of the House of Commons.

"I hope we will see industry organisations lobbying MPs and convincing the Government that this is a simple change that is in the interest of localism that would also help give communities a say as well as better protecting pubs."

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