Henry Smith enthusiastically supports the Government’s review which will boost the number of local pubs. As part of its commitment to the Great British pub, the Government this week launched a review of restrictive covenants, a legal clause that can be used to prevent community pubs reopening as public houses following a sale.
“In my role as a Member of the All-Party Parliamentary Group responsible for pubs and an avid supporter of the CAMRA campaign, I fully recognise the importance of pubs as hubs of community life and that they are as important to the local social scene as they are to the local economy here in Crawley. But time is being called at too many of our ‘locals’, depriving people of treasured places to get together in the community.
“In September I will have the privilege to get behind the bar at the Mill House pub in Ifield and see firsthand the difficulties faced by publicans whose premises often act as a focal point for local communities. I should note, however, that those looking for free samples will be bitterly disappointed.
“The Government is putting the people back in charge, giving them the power to step in and save their much-loved community assets. By reviewing this restrictive red tape we will enable people to use their collective powers to ensure that their locals remain local and continue to thrive at the heart of every community.”
The Government has already announced that it is supporting community pubs via a range of policies, including:
• Introducing a community right to buy. New rights through the Localism Bill will enable residents to save struggling pubs by taking them over rather than seeing them empty and derelict. Communities seeking to do this can get the expert advice they need through the Government-funded Asset Transfer Unit.
• Reviewing the rules on restrictive covenants. These rules have often restricted competition and seen pubs disappear from our towns and villages.
• A ban on the sale of alcohol below cost price. This will help protect local pubs from deep discounting by some supermarkets.
• Reforming licensing rules. This will make it easier to play live music in local pubs.
• Fair taxation on alcohol. Having already abandoned the last administration’s proposals for a significant increase in cider duty, the Government is balancing the need to tackle problem drinking without unfairly penalising responsible drinkers or ignoring the social and economic importance of pubs.
• The doubling of small business rate relief for another year. The Government is providing £380 million to extend the temporary one-year increase in Small Business Rate Relief which started last October for a further year (1 October 2011 – 30 September 2012). Eligible pubs should take advantage of this, because they do not always claim the discounts they are entitled to. The Government is also cutting red tape for businesses re-applying for this relief in the future.