General Election 2017

Labour sticks with promise to probe pub demise

By Georgina Townshend

- Last updated on GMT

Future sustainability: the Labour party retains its pledges that directly affect pubs
Future sustainability: the Labour party retains its pledges that directly affect pubs

Related tags: Business rates, Consumer price index

Labour has stuck with its promise to launch an investigation into the demise of pubs if the party is voted into power.

The confirmation in the party's official manifesto released today (16 May) cements what was written in a leaked version​ last Wednesday (10 May), including Labour's key policies ahead of the general election on 8 June.

The official document confirms what was in the draft, including a pledge to set up a national review of pubs to examine the causes of their “large-scale” demise.

The manifesto also states the party will establish a joint taskforce to consider the future sustainability of pubs.

However, the UK Independence Party has criticised Labour's intention​ to tackle the decline of pubs, claiming its plans would do "anything but that".

Further Labour policies

Other proposed Labour policies that would directly affect licensees include giving communities more powers to protect pubs and promote measures to reduce shop vacancies on the high street.

Following the release of the official manifesto, Brigid Simmonds, chief executive of the British Beer & Pub Association said it was good to see Labour had “identified pubs and high streets as important", but would prefer to look at any proposals for new powers over pubs in more detail.

“This can be an area where well-intentioned interventions can often result in unexpected new red tape,” she said.

Simmonds added any inquiry into the sector should consider that pubs are facing “very significant cost pressures at present”, such as beer duty increases, unfair business rates and new costs in the form of the apprenticeship levy and the national enrolment of pensions.

“Very big rises in the minimum wage would certainly add to the impact, and the focus for any new government should be to keep cost pressures for small businesses under control,” she added.

Business rates

There was no mention of plans to increase business rates relief for pubs, but Labour has taken inspiration from the controversial £1,000 relief scheme, and would extend it to small music venues.

A package of reforms on business rates has been mentioned, including switching the index that rates are linked from the Retail Price Index to the Consumer Price Index and ensuring businesses have access to a proper appeals process.

In the long term, the party plans to review the entire business rates system.

Beer tax

The Society of Independent Brewers (SIBA) has welcomed the manifesto but is prompting urgent action on beer tax and business rates.

Commenting on the manifesto pledge, SIBA managing director Mike Benner said:"Pubs are a force for good as centres of community life and the home of responsible drinking.

"It is essential that the next Government acts to support the British beer and pubs industry. We hope other parties will demonstrate support for pubs and beer in their manifestos."

Zero hours

Whilst the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers (ALMR) has welcomed the party's pledges to undertake a full review of the business rates system, and called a national review of local pubs a "great oportunity" it has voiced its concern over the banning of zero-our contracts and the impart this would have on employers.

ALMR chief executive Kate Nicholls said: “Flexible contracts can be a beneficial option for both employer and employee, particularly in the eating and drinking out sector when demand fluctuates and many young people like to combine their work with study.

"We have not seen any widespread evidence of zero-hours contract abuse and a blanket ban on them would harm many employers’ ability to take on staff."

Related topics: Legislation

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