Support package for pubs ‘sticking plaster’
GOVERNMENT proposals which could boost struggling pubs in north Essex have been criticised by a local MP as “putting sticking plaster on a gaping wound”.
The Government has published a 12-point action plan – including a �3.3million cash injection – aimed at boosting pubs and helping them become key parts of their communities. Colchester MP Bob Russell last year raised concerns in the House of Commons about the number of pubs closing and said there should be more protection for them.
It followed on from figures released at the time which showed that nearly 50 pubs in north and mid Essex had closed in just four years. This included 12 in Braintree, eight in Harwich and four in Colchester.
The proposals announced by communities minister John Healey would make it easier for rural pubs to take on other roles – such as containing a shop or post office.
And it would also make it more difficult for breweries to sell pubs as private homes, or stop them from putting on legal ties preventing anyone else from reopening the building.
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However, Mr Russell last night said he was not impressed with the Government’s plans.
“This sounds rather like a sticking plaster to try to heal a gaping wound,” he said.
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“The problem with pubs here in Essex is that publicans have been fighting on many fronts at the same time, and I don’t think the Government is able to address the main issue here.
“The problem isn’t preventing pubs from being sold for private homes – it is ensuring the breweries don’t try to work against the interests of the publicans.”
He said the bulk sale of cheap alcohol to supermarkets was a serious problem – as was the continuing practice of tying landlords to a particular brewery.
“You get the situation where publicans could buy their drink cheaper down at the local supermarket than they can get it direct from the brewery – but their contract says they have to deal direct with the big brewer,” he said.
“That’s the kind of thing that is forcing the closure of our pubs and I don’t see the Government doing anything about that.”
New help by the Government for pubs will include pumping �3.3m into business support for pubs. It is also hoping to cut beer ties with major breweries.
Mr Healey said: “This package of tough, practical measures aims to put some real support behind our community pubs, giving publicans more support to diversify and punters more choice.”