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Campaign For Pubs Calls On Election Candidates To Pledge Support And Save Pubs

The Campaign for Pubs has launched #PledgeforPubs, asking candidates in the 2024 General Election to commit to support and save pubs in the next Parliament by backing six key policies to stop unnecessary pub closures and get pubs, publicans and small brewers through the current cost-of-living crisis.

The six policies focus on much needed direct support for pubs and publicans, in the form of an urgently needed energy cap for businesses and a complete overhaul of the business rates system which penalises many pubs, with the pub sector paying over half a million more than it should every year. The Campaign for Pubs is also urging candidates and the next Government to review the level of VAT for hospitality and examine then implement Small Retailer’s Relief, changing the VAT system to introduce a lower rate of VAT for small independent business, with supermarkets and large chains paying the full rate.

The Campaign is also asking for a change to the planning law to stop the cynical buying and selling of pubs for development, by introducing its Give Pubs Protection policy to give every historic pub a chance. It means than no established pub of at least 50 years old or more can be converted or demolished until and unless it has been openly marketed at the independently assessed value as a pub for at least a year. Currently, pubs up and down the country are being sold off for development despite being viable and despite new owners wanting to buy them as a pub. Unless the law changes, that will continue to happen. The Campaign is then calling for a genuine community right to buy pubs, as part of a reformed Localism Act, with the flawed and weak Asset of Community Value system overhauled for pubs, so it is properly focused and strengthened to actually allow communities to buy their pubs – something often prevented, even when communities have raised the funds to pay the asking price.

The Campaign is also calling on the next Government to introduce a meaningful Pubs Code and genuine Market Rent Only option to deal with ongoing abuse of the beer tie. Promises made to publicans and campaigners were broken when the Pubs Code legislation was watered down and neutered, denying thousands of tenants the right to go free-of-tie. The Campaign is also calling for the tie to be banned for non-breweries and to be restricted to beer brewed by brewer-owned pubs. The abuse of the tie has been a huge factor in thousands of pub closures over the last twenty years and the focus of Parliamentary scrutiny, yet the current weak and flawed Pubs Code and ineffectual Pubs Code Adjudicator has failed to address this scandal, contributing to further pub closures.

The Campaign for Pubs, which also represents many UK small brewers, is also calling for help to stop the raft of closures of small breweries. In addition to a much needed energy cap, the Campaign wants to see a long-overdue Competition and Markets Authority review of the UK beer and pub sector, to deal with the anti-competitive dominance of giant brewers and pubcos, which is bad for small brewers, bad for publicans, bad for beer consumers and bad for communities.

The six key points of the #PledgeforPubs are:

1. Give Pubs Protection – give every longstanding/historic pub a chance to continue as a pub. Stop the unnecessary closure and predatory purchasing by ensuring all pubs 50 years or older have to be properly and openly marketed for a year at the independently assessed value as a pub before conversion or demolition is permitted.

2. Energy cap for businesses – including pubs and small brewers – with a turnover related taper and threshold to focus help on smaller businesses.

3. Fair Tax for Pubs – review and overhaul the unfair business rates system that penalises many pubs. Also address the unfair disparity between physical and online businesses. Review VAT for the entire hospitality sector and consider a Small Business VAT relief scheme to help smaller, independent businesses thrive alongside larger chain outlets.

4. Stop the Pubco Rip-off and the abuse of the tie – introduce the genuine Market Rent Only option i.e. the right for all tenants of the large pub companies to pay an independently assessed market rent with no supply ties and no other changes. The tie should also be restricted to beer brewed by breweries who own pubs and only on their own beer.

5. Introduce a Community Right to Buy – as well as the Give Pubs Protection policy, communities should be given a right to buy, at the independently assessed market price, where there is no commercial buyer as a pub. Local authorities should also be given stronger powers and clearer guidance to compulsory purchase pubs when current owners refuse to sell them as a pub.

6. Competition and Markets Authority review of the UK beer and pub sector. We need action to re-energise independent UK breweries, as Gordon Brown did with the original Small Brewers Duty Relief policy, by supporting a Competition and Markets Authority review of the UK beer and pub sector.

Dawn Hopkins, Vice-Chair of the Campaign for Pubs and a publican in Norwich said:
“Now is the time for election candidates of all parties to make a commitment to pubs, publicans, and small brewers. With 80 pubs a month closing, it cannot be denied any longer that pubs and publicans are not receiving the help and support desperately needed.

“There needs to be targeted help for to get through the cost of living crisis, starting with an energy cap for businesses to deal with extortionate energy bills as well as a complete overhaul of business rates, to deal with the unfair way pubs are taxed. The next Government must also reform the planning system, to stop the cynical buying and selling of pubs as development opportunities and to allow pubs to continue as a pub, where there is a buyer at the independently assessed value as a pub.

“The next Government has the chance to not only put the brakes on closures but to see our pubs thrive, but only if it actually listens to publicans and campaigners and commits to our 6 pledges that will ensure our pubs, and the communities and services they support, will grow and flourish”.

Paul Crossman, Chair of the Campaign for Pubs and a publican in York said:
“The Campaign for Pubs is calling on all election candidates to back the #PledgeforPubs and to commit to the key policies that will actually help pubs through the cost-of-living crisis and stop the unnecessary closure and loss of viable pubs up and down the country.

“We need a government that will act to end to the systematic corporate profiteering and wealth extraction that continues to afflict thousands of pubs across the UK, and that will put real planning protection in place to end the pillaging of our remaining precious national pub stock by rapacious developers whose only interest is a quick profit.

“Our six pledges directly confront these issues and will help pubs to thrive on a fairer and more level playing field, for the good of every community”.

Phil Saltonstall, brewer representative of the Campaign for Pubs and founder of Brass Castle Brewery said:

“We call on election candidates to back pubs and small brewers, to ensure that locally produced high quality beer, our national drink, is available in pubs in their area.

“It is no coincidence that as the pseudo-monopoly of six multinational brewers squeezes maximum profit from the UK beer industry – aided by recent government policy – dozens of pubs and small domestic brewers are shutting down weekly. We need to reestablish the successful pub/local supplier relationship that can drive growth rather than watch our beer industry being asset stripped into offshore accounts.

“The UK is long overdue a Competition and Markets Authority review of our dysfunctional beer industry. Despite clear indications of reductions in consumer choice, closed/tied markets and the diminishment of UK pub stock, big beer lobbyists have successfully caused recent governments to ignore the problem of a vertically integrated market and look the other way. Powering-up our Great British beer industry, so that it works for Britain, begins with a Competition and Markets Authority review.”