Monday, 9 March 2009

Save Welsh Pubs Campaign launched by Welsh Liberal Democrats

The Welsh Liberal Democrats are today launching their "Save Welsh Pubs" campaign, after new figures showed that 1 in 20 Welsh pubs have closed since June 2007. Liberal Democrat Shadow Secretary of State for Wales Roger Williams MP is calling for the duty on beer to be cut and to limit the restrictive practices operated by PubCos, which are damaging many pubs across the country.

Figures compiled by show that Wales has just over 5% fewer pubs open today than in June 2007. Some areas have been particularly hard hit, with Newport East and Wrexham losing nearly a fifth of their pubs since 2005.

Tied pub landlords rely on PubCos for their premises and supplies with evidence emerging of overcharging being endemic within the industry, with some PubCos charging double wholesale prices. An 11 gallon keg of Carling can be bought from a wholesaler for £63, whereas PubCos are charging £110-£120 per keg. The Business and Enterprise Select Committee are currently carrying out an enquiry on the operation of the 'tie'.

Some PubCos have even placed restrictive covenants on pubs which prevent them from being used as pubs in the future when they haven't been able to find a new landlord.

Prince Charles's 'Pub is the Hub' scheme is to be piloted in Denbighshire, having been in operation in England since 2001. The scheme helps pubs to offer additional services such as post offices and shops and school meals.

The key actions the Welsh Liberal Democrats want to see are:

· A reduction of the duty on beer and the scrapping of future planned rises

· Reform of 'the tie' operated by some of the big pub companies which restricts the licensee and makes many pubs unviable

· A change in the law to prevent restrictive covenants being placed on pubs which prevent them being operated as pubs in the future

Commenting, Roger Williams MP said:

"Pubs are having a tough time because of the recession, but the underlying trends show that even before we were hit by the worst of the economic problems, Welsh pubs were already beginning to close.

"Pubs are extremely important to communities, both rural and urban, and that we have already lost so many is deeply disturbing. Pubs can act as a social centre, and as a boost to surrounding businesses.

"Well run pubs can encourage responsible drinking. There has been a disturbing trend towards cheap alcohol from supermarkets which needs to be looked into.

"1 in 20 Welsh pubs have closed just in the last 18 months, and we must take action to protect our remaining pubs."

On the Welsh Lib Dem campaign, Roger added:

"Reducing the duty on beer would be an excellent first step in helping pubs stay in business, but without action to loosen the grip of PubCos on their tied landlords, it won't save our pubs.

"It is outrageous that pubs are charged extortionate prices for rent and supplies when the industry is suffering so badly. The PubCos are driving potentially successful businesses into the ground, and it is communities that are having to pay the price.

"It is even more of a scandal that when they can't find someone to take on a pub, they are placing covenants to stop them from having any competition, and depriving the community of the possibility of a pub under new ownership."

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