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Government needs to protect ‘community pubs’

communities

Published date:  24 Jan 2012

New figures show Britain losing 16 pubs a week

Community pubs need protection, according to a new report from the think tank IPPR published today. The report warns that community pubs are at risk of further closures without Government action.

IPPR’s new report assesses the social value of community pubs and is published alongside research for the Campaign for Real Ale showing that 16 pubs are now closing every week.

The report calls for a radical change in Government policy as well as changes to way the pub trade operates. It argues that the Government should reward and incentivise pubs that play a positive role in their local community. It says that current government policies on pubs contain two major flaws:

  • They are far too indiscriminate: all licensed premises have to carry the burden of regulation and increased taxation, but smaller community pubs that cause so few problems of crime and disorder are least able to take on these additional costs.
  • Policy fails to recognise the important community functions that many pubs perform. They are more than just businesses and pub closures can have a serious impact on the quality of local community life.

The report measured the social value, as opposed to just the economic value, generated by a number of community pubs across the country, finding that these pubs generated between £20,000 and £120,000 of ‘social value’ each year for their local communities.  

IPPR report says that pub closures have a serious impact on community life because of the role pubs play in strengthening local social networks, as well as facilitating many local services, events and activities which contribute to local life. These can include: hosting a range of important public services such as running post offices, and general stores; and providing a place for local charities, sports clubs and civic groups to host meetings and activities.

 

IPPR Associate Director, Rick Muir, said:

 

"Government must stop using a one size fits all approach to licensed premises which is killing off our community pubs. Instead responsible well-run community pubs should be encouraged and supported.

 

"Our research shows community pubs aren’t just places to drink but also places where people meet their neighbours; where local clubs hold meetings and events; and which support many important local services such as village post offices and general stores."

Notes to Editors

 

IPPR’s report is available from the IPPR press office in advance and will be available to download from: http://www.ippr.org/publications/55/8519/pubs-and-places-the-social-value-of-community-pubs

 

IPPR recommends that to prevent further pub closures, new Government measures must be introduced to provide extra support for the majority of well run community pubs. These should include:

  • Business rate relief for ‘centres of community’: when pubs act as local community hubs they should be granted 50% business rate relief. The report sets out a method for measuring the social impact of a community pub which would determine which pubs would qualify
  • Planning law should be reformed to provide greater protection for community pubs. In particular the loophole should be removed which allows pubs to be demolished without planning permission.
  • The relationship between the large pub companies and their tenants needs to be reformed. Pub companies with more than 500 pubs should offer lessees a guest beer option and an option to become ‘free of tie’ accompanied by an open market rent review. There should be a single stronger code of conduct supported by an independent adjudicator with the ability to provide redress to lessees when the code is breached.

The report found that the main factors contributing to the rise in pub closures include: 

  • Competition from shops and supermarkets where alcohol is much cheaper, which has led to more people drinking at home
  • The current economic downturn which has reduced pub incomes
  • Increases in tax on beer
  • The prices that some pub tenants have to pay the large pub companies for their beer
  • A fall in beer drinking and a growth in wine drinking
  • Increased regulation which small community pubs find the hardest to deal with

A survey by IPPR shows that when asked, people rate pubs the highest of any location where they can meet and get together with others in their neighbourhood. 36 per cent of respondents said that pubs were important for this purpose, compared with 32 per cent saying other people’s houses, 20 per cent saying local cafes and restaurants and 15 per cent saying local shops. It also found that pubs are seen by the public as the most important social institution for promoting interactions between people from different walks of life.

Other recommendations in the report include:

  • A minimum price per unit of alcohol should be introduced to prevent irresponsible promotions and close the gap between the on and the off trades.
  • Pubs themselves need to diversify their offer and keep up with consumer tastes and demand
  • The pub trade needs to develop a stronger culture of training and professional development

 

Contacts:

Richard Darlington: 07525 481 602 / r.darlington@ippr.org

Tim Finch: 07595 920 899 / t.finch@ippr.org