Pub operators' thoughts ahead of general election

By Rebecca Weller

- Last updated on GMT

General election: Who will we see in Downing Street?
General election: Who will we see in Downing Street?

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Ahead of the general election tomorrow (Thursday 4 July) the Morning Advertiser (MA) has looked at operator opinions on the fate of the nation's pubs.

Voters are set to take to the polls today to elect a new Government – that could mean another five-year term for the Tories or an end to their 14-year spell at the helm of the UK.

More than a quarter of publicans plan to vote for the Labour party in the upcoming general election, but operators remain torn as to which party would best serve the sector and economy.

A recent snap poll​ by the Morning Advertiser (MA)​ revealed 31% of the 152 respondents expected to vote for the Labour party​ on Thursday 4 July, with the Conservatives ​closely behind at 25%.

Reform UK were the third most popular according to the survey, with 23% of the votes, followed by the Liberal Democrats and Green Party ​at 14% and 5% respectively.

Meanwhile just 2% of participants said they would vote for another option.

Though owner of Top 50 Gastropub, the Dog at Wingham in Canterbury, Marc Bridgen told the MA​ he felt hospitality was “not of any interest” to any of the parties, adding he “didn’t know how to vote” in the election.

He continued: “We need a Government that gets money back in people’s pockets for them to get our spending again. I don't see any party helping us with VAT reduction - that would get my vote.”

Moreover, owner of Cheshire Cat Pubs & Bars Tim Bird said the election ​brought with it more “fear and uncertainty” for the sector, adding a change in Government now could set the country back “years.”

He told the MA​: “My gut feel is it’s ‘better the devil you know’. I think people will vote out the Tories on their past performance and not see the potential of their future performance.

Balancing costs

“Inflation is flattening and interest rates are tipped to come down [later this year].”

In addition, Bird said he was not confident a Labour Government would continue the discounted business rates for the sector, which had been vital for post-pandemic recovery.

“I believe the Tories will keep the 75% reduction going but I cannot see Labour doing this at all, which would wipe out a lot of profit from the pubs that have benefitted over the last two years.

“This benefit has enabled us to get back on the road to full recovery and balance out rising costs. I certainly cannot see a business rates​ reform happening quickly, if at all, under Labour”, he continued.

The multiple operator also urged voters to look at their local MPs performance and what they have done for the industry when considering who to vote for next month.

“Whatever the differing manifestos mention about support for our sector, words are easy but the truth is the country is broke."

Bird said: “Our current MP has been hugely supportive of the issues faced by the hospitality industry and the local pubs in her constituency, she has made herself available to listen to the issues we face and has taken those issues to the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

“This support won’t go away because the relationship is forged. Our Industry bodies are fully aware of what is needed, and they too have forged relationships, change now will put us back years.”

Meanwhile, owner of the Unruly Pig in Suffolk, Brendan Padfield, commented none of the parties plans for fiscal growth “add up”.

He said: “Conservative, Labour and Reform are all promising the earth but the Institute of Fiscal Studies says none of them can actually deliver on their promises without very substantial and painful public spending cutbacks and/or tax rises.

“Whatever the differing manifestos mention about support for our sector, words are easy but the truth is the country is broke.

Voter apathy

“The sums don’t add up for any of them unless we as a country achieve substantial growth but the specific plans any of the parties have for growth seem flimsy at best.”

In addition, Padfield said there was a sense of “detachment and voter apathy” around the election, which “spoke volumes”.

“I think I am right in understanding of the 30 plus team members at the Unruly Pig, I may be the only one voting in this general election.

“My team say ‘what’s the point in voting, the lead parties are all the same’. And they are largely right.

“Normally our streets would be awash with party posters and party boards, yet they are not”, he added.

The Top 50 Gastropub operator also said the debate on immigration had become “toxic” with most parties failing to mention the impact Brexit has had on hospitality firms, having “stunted” economic growth.

He continued: “I am disappointed that such a large part of our sector could see any salvation in voting Reform; the Brexit growth loss would have paid for a lot of hospitals and teachers etc.

“Whilst it’s difficult to decide which of a bad bunch I will vote for, tossing a coin, Labour will probably get my vote as I think they present the best realistic bet for growth by trying to improve our relationship with the EU [which will also help tackle workforce shortages and issues].”

  • Read more on what each party has to offer the sector here

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