“Small business in Chester is really getting behind small business Saturday this weekend. I have delivered more than 400 packs to businesses telling them what it is all about. Will the Minister commit to making an assessment of the success of the first small business Saturday, so that we can improve and help small business in future?” asked Stephen Mosley in the Commons last month.
Mosley clearly claims to champion small businesses. He has also been recognised as a “Beer Champion”, an accolade which he prizes so highly that he has let anyone who cares know via his website. So from this, the thought may enter that Mosley is willing to weigh in on behalf of all those struggling licensees, especially the ones under the cosh of the overbearing PubCos.
But that thought would be sadly misplaced: when PubCos are mentioned, Chester’s MP is nowhere to be seen. As with so many right-leaning politicians, he is happy to crow over his part in persuading The Rt Hon Gideon George Oliver Osborne, heir to the Seventeenth Baronet, to scrap the beer duty escalator, and take a whole penny a pint off that duty, but silent on the worst offenders.
Because it is not the target of the dubiously talented array of non-job holders at the so-called Taxpayers’ Alliance (TPA) – a 1p cut in duty – that is killing pubs right now. As Zelo Street regulars will remember from the story of The Caledonia, that excellent street-corner local in Liverpool that was sold from under its licensee and threatened with closure, it is the PubCos that are causing the most closures.
PubCos, unlike brewers’ tied estates, mostly do not have the incentive of selling beer, but of maximising the value of their property portfolios. This they do by jacking up rents and then selling pubs off, even when they are still going concerns, to cash in what are to them merely property chips on a life-size Monopoly board. That the largest PubCos are carrying significant debt merely hastens this behaviour.
Stephen Mosley has done nothing to oppose the appalling practices of the PubCos. And for those of his constituents who frequent the many fine pubs and bars of the City of Chester, this will come as no surprise: they are unlikely to see him in any of them this side of hell freezing over. I can say this with some confidence, having occasionally joined the excellent Chester Beer Project survey team.
Mosley’s “Beer Champion” boast is for the advancement of Himself Personally Now. If he’s intervened in a single impending pub closure since being elected to Parliament (the Greyhound in Saughall had already closed before he noticed it) then it will come as news to anyone interested. His support for small businesses is at best inconsistent, and at worst a sham.
Hopefully next year voters will see through the veneer of self-promotion and bin him.