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£27million to play for – write to your MP to secure Better Rates for Pubs

On 19/11/13 by Gareth Barrett

With Christmas fast approaching, pubs are well into the planning, development and even delivery of a range of activities designed to take advantage of this short period of economic merriment. The challenge of getting the right amount of beer, wine, turkey, desserts; procuring the obligatory truckload of brussel sprouts; taking bookings; considering entertainment and managing staff rotas is a tough one - landlords are bound to be pressed for time over the next few weeks. However there’s something that publicans, alongside the brewers and pub companies who back them, should spend ten minutes doing - both for your own business and pubs across the country – write to your local MP about extending Small Business Rate Relief (SBRR).

Now it doesn’t sound glamorous, and it certainly won’t get the Christmas party started, but the loss of Small business Rate Relief (SBRR) would cost pubs across the country a massive £27 million. We also don’t have long – the decision to extend this relief (or not!) will take place in the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement on December 5th. That’s why Charlotte Leslie MP, a big backer of pubs, put down a motion calling for SBRR to be extended (noted as EDM 599) alongside other pro-pub Business Rate asks. You can find out of your MP has signed it here – if not get writing and ensure that the industry voice is heard!

This effort to get secure extension on SBRR is only the start for the BBPA’s Business Rates campaign. We have teamed up with seven other industry bodies to form a joint initiative ‘Better Rates for Pubs’. We’ve set up a campaign page where you can delve more deeply into the issues here. However, it’s vital we keep MPs aware of the issue - and how pubs deserve a decent Christmas present this year - the extension of SBRR!

Gareth Barrett


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Irish Eyes are Smiling!

On 14/11/13 by Brigid Simmonds (Chief Executive)

BBPA has always worked closely with the licensed victuallers in England (FLVA and GMV), Scotland (SLTA), and Ireland, but we have most recently looked at strengthening our ties with Pubs of Ulster, whose reach extends to cover most of hospitality, but with a strong emphasis on responsible retailing and working as we do, closely with Government.

I was delighted to be invited to the Pubs of Ulster 2013 Pub of the Year Gala Awards Dinner in Belfast last night and despite the fact that I am Irish by birth, made my first trip back to Northern Ireland since I was a child. It was an extremely good evening.

Mark Stewart, their Chairman and our host, spoke about the importance of pubs, hotels, restaurants and bars to the Irish hospitality industry. They are looking for changes to their Licensing legislation to allow the industry to compete in a modern environment. Their key asks include a reduction in VAT (offered to hospitality in the Republic of Ireland, but not in the North); a review of red tape and a greater recognition within the EU. They have established a Responsible Retailing Code with a complaints panel which is their equivalent of the Portman Group, but covering the on and off trade. All premises are subject to its judgements and they may in the fullness of time have statutory underpinning of the code in law. It is chaired by Duncan McCausland a gregarious former Assistant Chief Constable who clearly commands respect in the community.

As ever in Ireland there are close ties with the US and I was fortunate enough to sit next to their Consulate General, Greg Burton, with whom I discussed British beer and our TTIP asks! On my other side was Simon Hamilton MLA who is the Minister for Finance. He is a clear supporter of pubs and we discussed everything from beer duty to VAT, business rates and even the World Cup!

Pubs of Ulster are working on a Great Ulster Pubs week next year to celebrate great pubs, great music, great food and great hospitality. Pubs of Ulster have close links to Ulster rugby union club and Ulster Giants, their ice hockey team. Their extremely good and active CEO is Colin Neill who amongst other things is looking next year at a charity bike ride from London to Paris supported by all his pubs. This is something I will be supporting – and I hope you do as well!

Northern Ireland MPs in Westminster are clearly important now and likely to become more important during the next General Election. We discussed hosting an event for them at Westminster in the New Year, particularly on our latest campaign for a beer duty campaign freeze in the next Budget. Clearly beer and pubs are important not only to the people of Northern Ireland, but to their economy too and our current ties will certainly benefit from being strengthened.

Brigid Simmonds
Chief Executive


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A Promising Start

On 11/11/13 by Liz Gaffer (Director of Marketing & Charity Services, LTC)

Guest blog from Liz Gaffer of the Licensed Trade Charity

Since re-launching the Charity’s new Support and Care website this summer we have seen a 30% increase in the number of visitors to our website, which is a clear indicator to me that we are a useful and relevant support for those in the licensed drinks trade.

The most frequent call is about money worries. And whilst we don’t have a magic wand to wave these away, our helpline team are trained to work through callers’ issues and put together a concrete plan of action, which is proactively followed up at a later date. The feedback we’ve received so far is that the caring service we provide works. Sometimes all people need is the time and space to work through their issues and hear the right advice when it matters most. Our helpline 0808 801 0550 is free to those working in the trade – not many people know that.

Getting the message out there is important, and already the communication the BBPA has done has prompted 4 family brewers to say they will promote our support to their staff and business partners as part of their CSR package. Punch are promoting the helpline and website through their estate this month, with HR Director Jackie Burn saying that she sees our work as an extension of the support they already offer to staff and business partners.

We recently commissioned a white paper to highlight this, and would more organisations with a CSR-focus or not to get in touch to find out more. We are an occupational charity, supporting people working in pubs and breweries, often turning their lives around. That’s got to be another good thing the industry does.

Liz Gaffer
Director of Marketing & Charity Services, LTC


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Suffolk Bound

On 08/11/13 by Simon Goldrick (Policy & Information Officer)

Last Friday the BBPA team travelled up to Adnams Southwold for a brewery visit. These visits give us the opportunity to learn more about our member companies, the issues that really affect them and how their businesses are facing the challenges ahead.

After a bright and early start we were greeted by Andy Wood, Stephen Pugh and Emma Hibbert for a presentation on how Adnams has adapted to meet the challenges of the brewing industry. Their slogan of ‘Doing Things Right’ brilliantly summarises their policy of environmental and social responsibility whilst not taking the fun out of beer!

We were taken on an excellent brewery tour by Head Brewer, Fergus Fitzgerald, who spoke eloquently about the brewery and his own passion for brewing– demonstrating the qualities that made him the winner of the 2013 All-Party Parliamentary Beer Group ‘Brewer of the Year’ award. The brewhouse, built in 2008, is a modern, energy-efficient construction, fitted into the compact historic site and is now used not only in the production of the diverse range of Adnams beer but in the production of wash for the distillery. The distillery was installed in 2010 and is the only distillery on a brewery site in the UK. It was an interesting sight indeed - resplendent in burnished copper.

Lunch, also attended by Pubs Minister, Brandon Lewis MP, followed at the picturesque Harbour Inn providing an opportunity to taste the Adnams beers, ranging from the traditional Old Ale mild to the American inspired Ghost Ship, packed with Citra hops.

Finally we visited the distribution centre which perhaps would not feature in a typical brewery tour. However with a grass roof, hemp walls and a whole host of innovative, environmental features it was highly impressive and futuristic – a huge contrast with the wonderfully traditional Sole Bay Brewery, yet still fitting perfectly with Adnams entire business ethos.

Many thanks must go to everyone at Adnams for this fantastic day with some valuable lessons in how one brewery is succeeding, developing and evolving.

Simon Goldrick
Policy & Information Officer


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Get social to get healthy

On 07/11/13 by Sophie McIntyre

Unlike women, who often don’t need much of an excuse for a chat, new research suggests that men are having a bit of trouble keeping up with their close friends. There has of course been a general increase in interaction via social media and online which has in part led some men towards more solitary behaviour. This inclination to stay put at home and spend more time on Facebook and Twitter could, however, be bad for their health. Getting off the sofa and away from the PS3/Twittersphere, calling up a mate and heading to the pub for a catch up could help you live longer.

This may all sound a bit far fetched… However, a report has been commissioned by Guinness, authored by leading psychologist at Oxford University Professor Robin Dunbar. The report has found that men should be meeting up with their close friends face to face at least twice a week and that a reliance on social media interaction should be avoided as this doesn’t confer the same benefits.

Specifically, Dunbar claims that 60% of your social life is split between just 15 friends or family and that most men will have four male friends that they spend time with most frequently. The success of these close friendships is clearly important. However, I’m sure many do not realise that the strengths of these can, allegedly, impact not just your mental health but also how prone you are to illness and your speed of recovery when you do get struck down.

An article was recently published in Shortlist magazine, which involved details of a social experiment conducted by Dr Dunbar. Columnist Danny Wallace was involved with the experiment, during which a group of friends played a game of football together outside and then played each other at football virtually. The first experience left them feeling much happier than the second.

Despite the benefits of socialising frequently, the Guinness research has suggested that only 42 per cent of men manage to meet up with their friends once a week and 30 per cent struggle to manage that. It seems clear that socialising, whether that be sporting activities, going down the pub or something else can have a positive effect on mental and physical health.

What a great excuse for a pint!

Sophie McIntyre


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Waste water and the Secretary of State

On 31/10/13 by Brigid Simmonds (Chief Executive)

£3.5 million has been invested by Shepherd Neame in a new Waste Water Recovery Plant in Faversham. The site, a former Tesco distribution base was opened yesterday by the Rt. Hon Owen Paterson MP, the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and Andy Tighe and I were privileged to be present.

I must admit that on many of my brewery visits the problems of effluent, potential fines from water boards and how to the deal with the problem have surfaced many times. Many years ago Shepherd Neame helped fund the Faversham waste recovery plant, but they now felt that the pressure on the plant was too great and they needed their own. One real advantage of the plant is the opportunity for water re-use within the brewery and the reduction in the amount of water required for brewing which is drawn from their own artesian well, deep beneath the brewery.

I met Owen Paterson in Cologne when he launched the UK food and drink export strategy and clearly increasing exports are high on his agenda. His second priority is sustainability and improving the environment. He spoke knowledgably about the environmental benefits of using UK grown barley and hops. He was impressed about the use in Faversham of an anaerobic digester to help reduce the 15 million tons of waste thrown away each year.

After a tour of the bottling plant (during which the Secretary of State had to take a call from Number 10 - For those of you who have bottling plants, not the easiest place to find a quiet spot!); a quick look at the brewery and then a final discussion with Jonathan, Tom Falcon, Andy and myself.

We raised as you would expect a number of issues. We gave him our ‘Cheers’ booklet on the effect of the Budget and made the case for a further freeze. We talked about PRNs (Packaging Recovery Notes) and the dramatic interest in the cost of recycling glass for the industry. We asked him to help move forward proposals – to address this and particularly the issue of company obligations being too high due to the current overestimate of the total glass market. I will write to him about this and other issues.

We of course talked about exports, the TTIP negotiations between the EU and USA, the proposals by the Scottish Government on deposits and returns and how we were very opposed to the scheme and any idea that this might be extended in England. We discussed business rates and in particular rural rate relief and how DEFRA can help rural pubs.

Beer is classed as a food and is therefore the responsibility of DEFRA. It is always good to have the opportunity to sit down with the Cabinet Minister responsible for your sector and in Owen Paterson I think we have a Secretary of State who is listening and will take further action to help.

Brigid Simmonds
Chief Executive


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Personal Licence – to kill? PLH reform and upcoming fee increases…

On 31/10/13 by Jim Cathcart (Policy Manager - Pub Operations)

At a recent meeting of the National Licensing Forum here at Brewers’ Hall, the Home Office gave a very useful update on the upcoming changes to licensing.

A number of these were well known already – Minimum Unit Pricing still remains under consideration but without firm proposals to bring it forward as yet, mandatory licensing conditions are being strengthened especially in regard to irresponsible promotions, the TENs limit is being increased from 12 to 15 a year and personal licence renewals are being scrapped.

On the issue of personal licences, no one involved in the trade could have failed to miss the fact that the Home Office is currently consulting on the removal of the national personal licence requirement, to be replaced with locally-set training conditions. The arguments against the removal of personal licences have been well-rehearsed elsewhere and won’t be detailed here, suffice to say that the entire industry has united in its disapproval of the Home Office’s plans. However, the fact that the Government is willing to deregulate in the area of licensing should not be overlooked – four or five years ago this would have been unimaginable. Whilst personal licences are not a candidate, other areas are ripe for the red tape harvest such as the requirement to advertise in newspapers, the removal of annual ‘registration of interest’ under s.178 of the Licensing Act and a common date for fee payments, which one hopes will be included in the upcoming fees consultation – more on this below.

The mysterious new ‘Community and Ancillary Sellers’ authorisation lets loose a new phrase into the already acronym-heavy world of licensing – the CAN. This new authorisation will apparently allow businesses and community groups a simpler and cheaper alternative if they wish to sell small amounts of alcohol without having a premises licence – for example hairdressers serving wine with a haircut. It will be interesting to see how the CAN works in practice as we are awaiting more detail from the Home Office. It will, of course, be necessary to ensure businesses are truly ancillary sellers of alcohol and that this does not disadvantage those with a full premises licence and the resultant safeguards (a semi-recent example involving a supposed ‘furniture shop’ selling beer comes to mind).

Finally, on to fees. The Government intend to introduce regulations bringing in the new fee levels in June 2014 – which will be locally set on a cost recovery basis and thankfully be subject to a national cap. A consultation on this new fee structure and the proposed levels is expected in the very near future, and given fees have not increased since 2005 any new levels must be proportionate so as not to burden the sector and wipe out any benefits from licensing deregulation. All in all, there is plenty for the trade to be getting its collective head round in the coming months.

Jim Cathcart
Policy Manager - Pub Operations


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Keg Watch Security Team Keep Busy

On 30/10/13

Guest blog from Keg Watch Chairman, Hector Taylor

The Scrap Metal Dealers Act 2013, is now law and whilst a ban on cash payments has been in effect since October, the wider Act will be enforced from 1st December this year. This long awaited piece of legislation will enhance the increasingly effective working relationships that Keg Watch has developed with both the Police and other Law Enforcement Agencies.

As an example, the Keg Watch security team, on behalf of the UK brewing industry, now routinely undertakes more than 100 investigations per annum of which around 30% result in a police caution or prosecution.

Investigations are initiated by calls to the office concerning anything from a few kegs being found at a non-accredited scrap yard to a full trunker load having been detained by police or border authorities without any valid documentation.

Online auction sites are an area of particular interest.. During this summer alone, Keg Watch has identified 62 instances of casks and kegs being offered for sale. Upon being advised that these containers were the legal property of the brewers, the vast majority of individuals concerned immediately asked us to collect the containers for repatriation to the owners. There are a handful of cases that remain unresolved, which generally relate to confusion over the ownership of containers left in pub cellars, which the new owners claim are included in the sale.

Keg Watch continue to challenge the individuals who refuse to recognise the true, legal ownership of brewers’ containers and any direct contact by such individuals attempting to return kegs or casks in exchange for payment should be referred to Keg Watch as soon as possible.

Remember to call Keg Watch on 0800 100 1945 if you have any suspicions regarding illegal handling and use of containers.


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Working through Europe to boost the beer trade worldwide

On 29/10/13

It is fair to say that Europe has not had the best economic luck over the past five years. Overall the economies of the EU have seen growth of three per cent from the beginning of 2008 up to the end of 2012. Of course many countries have fared much worse, and some have outperformed others. In contrast the world's emerging markets have continued to grow, albeit at a slower rate than before the global financial meltdown. It's therefore not a surprise that Europe's leading companies are looking to these markets for export growth.

For all its critics the European Union has created a dynamic trading union within which the movement of goods between member states is relatively fluid. There are complications with dutiable goods, such as beer, but on the whole the system works well. Food safety standards and some labelling elements are rationally harmonised, and EMCS sets a common method for moving product.

Outside of the EU, however, it's not so easy. Many countries demand specialist testing of products, set import tariffs, create spurious rules on labelling and have preferential tax systems for domestic producers. All of this can make it very difficult for British (and other European) brewers to access these markets. This is where the European Commission can play, and indeed has played, a crucial role for businesses in the EU.

On Thursday I attended a meeting of the Market Access Working Group on Alcoholic Beverages (MAAC) meeting in Brussels. The BBPA was raising a specific point about trade barriers to the US, through our Brewers of Europe representation. Currently US small brewers can receive tax discounts in Europe, yet European small brewers can't receive the same benefits in the US, even though their domestic brewers do receive substantial subsidies. That just doesn't seem fair. We were there to make that point to the Commission and ask for their support in challenging this disparity. The case seems strong and the Commission agreed to look into the issue further.

As well as the US there were issues with many other countries on a range of issues. In Russia and South Korea there have been plans to re-define beer, plans which could exclude a number of beer brands from export; in Turkey excessive labelling requirements could close the market for many exported beers; Israel is demanding nutritional labelling, which means a whole new pack design.

All around the world Governments are proposing schemes, designed in their own nation, and rightly so. But we live in a global society and we need to make it as easy as possible for products to move across borders, and to avoid unnecessary protectionism. It will boost trade and create so much more choice for consumers, which can only be good for everyone!

We have the opportunity, through the European Commission and bodies like the Brewers of Europe, to challenge trade barriers and keep borders open for British beer – something that can only add to our long term success.


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