Community pubs play an important role in local communities across Britain as well as contributing to government tax revenues and providing thousands of jobs. I share your concern, therefore, that 29 pubs are now closing each week in the UK – almost twice the number of pub closures in 2011.
CAMRA have highlighted a number of ways that government and local authorities can address this, including further action on beer duty, improved regulations for pubcos and new planning protection for local pubs.
The government have done far too little to support community pubs over the last five years. They have been slow to introduce the proper statutory code that is needed to better regulate the pubco industry and they have failed to ensure that community pubs have proper protection in the planning system.
The recent cuts in beer duty are welcome but it should also be remembered that the Government’s decision to increase VAT to 20 per cent has added more to the price of a pint since 2011 than the beer escalator did.
Labour MPs opposed the government’s changes to planning law that were introduced in the last Parliament and mean that pubs can now be converted to supermarkets without the need for planning permission. Communities should have a greater say over local amenities and be able to ensure that no community pub can be demolished or converted to another use without receiving planning permission.
In 2014, I, along with my Labour colleagues, backed a successful amendment to the Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Bill to stop large pub companies (PubCos) exploiting tenants in so-called ‘tied pubs’. The Government opposed this changes, but were defeated..
Further action is needed to ensure large pubcos treat publicans more fairly. There has been some welcome progress on this in light of concerted campaigning from CAMRA and other organisations, but the Government need to ensure this work is completed and that the code works effectively.