by Toby Perkins
Pubs are businesses at the heart of their communities; so it is a cause for great concern that pubs are now shutting at the alarming rate of 25 a week, and the government is failing to live up to its promises to take action to support this great British institution.
The pub sector is also an area which starkly illustrates the difference between the active, intelligent government working in partnership with business which Labour stands for, and the ‘government getting out of the way’ approach, favoured by Osborne, Cable et al.
The business, innovation and skills select committee has investigated in detail the relationship between the pub companies (or PubCos) – the branded chains of pubs which account for the majority of pubs in the UK – and their tenants. It has produced three reports on the subject over the past three years.
Most significantly, they found an unfair relationship between the huge companies which dominate the market and the small business owners who run individual pubs, alongside restrictive practices preventing smaller breweries from accessing huge swathes of the trade.
This week, after months of dither and delay, the government finally responded to the long-standing call for a fairer relationship between pubs and their owners. Sadly, it is a case of too little too late, and comes up short of the action needed.
The previous Labour government gave the industry a year to reform itself, putting in place a voluntary code, and made it clear that a statutory code would be put in place if the industry did not get its act together.