Rarely does even the so-called Taxpayers’ Alliance (TPA) manage the perfect storm of backing the rich against the poor, flagrant hypocrisy, and letting slip their alliances, but in their rush to put the boot in on Vince Cable over moves to bring in a code of practice for the pub trade they have scored a veritable triple crown, as well as demonstrating a total lack of understanding of the issues involved.
Most public houses in the UK are owned by either PubCos or brewers: these are commonly referred to as tied houses. Time was when the biggest brewers owned thousands of pubs, but under previous legislation they divested themselves of their holdings, and this, together with subsequent consolidation in the sector, has brought us to where we are today with the PubCos.
PubCos are effectively property companies, and they have little interest in the product, other than imposing a set range of beers on their tenants. Under their less than benign stewardship, we now have a situation where almost half of all tied houses make less than £15,000 a year. Thus more tenants are giving up, and along with PubCos treating pubs only as property assets, this means more closures.
Cable has said “The government is committed to building a thriving pub sector”. He intends to accomplish this by curbing exploitative rents and beer prices. The TPA, which has just campaigned for a lowering of beer tax, and therefore lower beer prices, has now about-turned so it can kick the Government. Non-job holder Rory Meakin has reached for the hyperbole handbook and is talking of quangos.
Moreover, in backing the PubCos, the TPA is siding with rich corporates against those scraping a living and working long hours to do so. Having surveyed every pub in Crewe recently (the blog can be read HERE) I can tell the TPA that the town’s worst pubs are all under the thumb of the PubCo – and Meakin siding with Punch Taverns, the worst of the lot, is not A Very Clever Thing to do.
Echoing the TPA is Allister Heath, supposedly independent and editor of free sheet City AM, but in reality a TPA stooge, as he lets slip in an editorial. Heath wants to preserve every aspect of the PubCos’ exploitative behaviour, and then, like the TPA, asserts that pubs are “over-taxed”. So, like his pal Meakin, he wants to lower costs, but on the other hand, he, er, isn’t bothered about lowering costs.
And both Heath and his TPA pals fail to see that there is more than one kind of tied pub: some are still tied to brewers (such as Robinsons and Lees in the North West) and here the owner has an interest in retaining the property as an outlet for their products. The PubCos, on the other hand, have shown themselves to be malign bodies willing to cash in their assets rather than bother about serving communities.
Remember that the next time the TPA pretend to be on the side of beer drinkers.