This week we were among a group of organisations who, together with, we launched an awareness-raising campaign to promote a government consultation.
It’s not something we do very often, but this was a special case. Because the consultation exercise in question is on an issue that could well govern the future of the pub trade as we know it today.
Last week the government announced it was to consult on plans which could, ultimately, prevent the big pub companies abusing their landlords, primarily through the beer tie. That is forcing publicans to buy their beer, at vastly inflated prices.
There are other issues too, like the big pub-cos charging tenants vastly inflated rents, way above market prices, and in some cases even taking large cuts from food sales, and even the gaming machines. These kinds of tactics often means hard working publicans are lefty with little profit, if any. And this, as we know, is very much part of the reason why dozens of pubs up and down the country are closing at a rate of knots, damaging high streets, and hurting communities.
But we think government intervention in the form of a code of practice would be welcome, and specifically the suggestion of an official adjudicator to arbitrate in cases of dispute. The government is even considering giving this body the power to fine the pub-cos – something else we strongly support. Watchdogs need teeth to work effectively.
This is why we, along with organisations such as CAMRA, Fair Pint, the Pubs Advisory Service, and union Licensees Unite, came together with our Fair Deal for Your Local campaign, which is effectively to encourage as many people as possible to take part in the consultation process. The more who come forward to endorse the plans, the more chance there is of getting it legislated for.
We very much support the principle that a tied licensee should be no worse off than a free-of-tie licensee. The future of the pub industry as we know it today will very much depend on making this a reality, so the outcome of the government consultation is crucial.
A pub code adjudicator could help stem the tide of pub closures seen right across the country. And tipplers should not forget, it could ultimately mean cheaper prices at the bar. Is that not reason enough for drinkers to mobilise and get behind their local pub?
The fundamental problem is that the large pub companies are taking more than is reasonable or fair from the profits of tied pub. A fair deal will result in the average tied pub being £4,000 better off annually – and as small business owners we think they need this help now more than ever.