Business development · 10 March 2016

Government measures to keep British pubs in the hands of local owners

Four pubs currently close a day in England

To improve relations between pub landlords and their tenants, the government has appointed an independent Pub Code Adjudicator (PCA), responsible for governing relationships between pub-owning businesses and tied tenants throughout England and Wales, whilst enforcing the statutory Pubs Code.

Following open competition for the role, Paul Newby – a chartered surveyor in the pubs sector for over 30 years – was appointed as PCA by business secretary Sajid Javid.

Newby will be granted with authority to arbitrate individual disputes over breaches of the Pubs Code, including rental disagreements and market rent-only options, and to provide redress.

He will also be enabled to investigate systemic breaches of the code generally across the pubs sector, with the ability to impose sanctions including financial penalties. Furthermore, he will be able to provide advice and guidance about the Pubs Code.

Commenting on Newby’s appointment, business minister Anna Soubry said: “Paul has a wealth of experience in arbitration and is sensitive to the challenges that the pub industry faces.

“The Pubs Code will ensure the 12,000 tied tenants of the six largest pub-owning companies can secure a fair deal and a better livelihood,” she added.

To coincide with Newby’s appointment, the government also announced plans for a £3.62m support programme, helping communities take back control of local pubs.

Jointly funded by the department for communities and local government and the Power to Change Trust, the programme will provide a range of measures – from early-stage advice to packages of grants and loans – to local groups looking to take over running of their pubs.

Following Newby’s appointment, community pubs minister Marcus Jones said: “This excellent appointment will hugely improve the relationship between landlords and tenants and help to cement the Great British pub at the heart of our local communities.”

According to The Lost Pub Project, four pubs currently close every day in England – the highest rate of closure since the 1904 compensation act saw the forced closure of ten per cent of pubs.

These closures can be seen as a result of the belt-tightening of large pub-owning companies like Enterprise Inns or Punch Taverns. Following an acquisition overdrive around the turn of the millennium (which resulted in these two companies specifically owning over 16,000 UK pubs between them), the pub companies experienced over-reach and began curtailing estate sizes, closing and selling off establishments.

It is hoped these new measures will be a step in the right direction to re-balance the relationship between pub-owning companies and tenants.

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Fred Heritage was previously deputy editor at Business Advice. He has a BA in politics and international relations from the University of Kent and an MA in international conflict from Kings College London.

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