On 27/09/13 by Gareth Barrett
This year’s Labour conference has been described as a move from ‘pamphlet Labour’ to ‘leaflet Labour’. The party has made a shift towards providing tangible policy content in the form of readymade statements - easily printed up and thrust through a letter box. The obvious example is the headline grabbing energy policy, the proposed two year price freeze/cap until 2017, which has seen the most reaction from the pundits. That the potential outcomes of this policy have already been so fiercely debated has already fulfilled part of Labour’s media challenge – that the party had no policies. There is certainly disagreement on the practical nature of the deliveries but narrative based on the party’s lack of actual policies may now be harder to maintain.
The Shadow Chancellor, Ed Balls MP, offered some of the first headlines of the conference with plans to increase the banking levy and hints that HS2 may be dropped by a future Labour government. Interestingly, there was no mention of a VAT cut – previously one of the only clear Labour policies – with the money from that cut now seemingly set for elsewhere.
Small business rates proposals were expanded on from earlier proposals with a cut and freeze promised for the first two years. The funding of this measure by reversing a corporation tax cut planned for 2015-16 has created controversy – funding discounts for one type of business by taxing another. Proposals for a change in the minimum wage – to make the rate industry specific – received less coverage but could prove to have as great an impact. The early hints were that a new policy on apprenticeships and immigration would headline the policy announcements proved to be false, despite leading advanced press coverage, though the policy was still proposed.
Pledges for one million new homes over the course of the Parliament – and compulsory land purchasing from developers, who are judged to have chosen not to develop – rounded off the key business focused elements.
The conference also saw a real personalisation of the policies by Ed Miliband. The ‘One Nation Labour’ theme was neat, borrowing an effective framing device from conservatives Disraeli and Macmillan. This conference was led with more ‘Do you agree with Ed Miliband?’ and new postcard’s highlight that ‘Ed Miliband will freeze energy prices’ rather than ‘Labour will.’ This change in tactics can be considered an attempt to improve Miliband’s own personal ratings – which are considerably lower than the Labour Party itself – and attempting to define what he actually stands for. It is also worth noting that the focus shifted from ‘Labour will’ to ‘our government will’, with Ed looking to appear as prime ministerial as possible – a distinct change from last year’s attempts to appear casual and relaxed.
Away from policy developments, the conference again hosted a range of celebrity endorsers for the Labour Party, with Ed Miliband’s introduction being voiced by David Tennant, former ‘Eastender’ and Gavin & Stacey star, Larry Lamb and Eddie Izzard appearing on the front row for the leader’s speech and Jason Isaacs voicing Labour’s film on their new energy policy.
All in all, Populism was certainly a theme that rang true throughout the Brighton experience. Only time will tell how this plays in the polls and, in turn, the all important 2015 general election.
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On 25/09/13 by David Sheen (Policy Manager - Economy & Environment)
The big policy announcement ahead of Ed Miliband's keynote speech on Tuesday was a 'cut' in business rates for small businesses in 2015, if Labour were to be elected. This would be funded by a reversal in the planned reduction in Corporation Tax for larger businesses. Whilst details remain sketchy the plan seems to be to turn back the increase expected in 2015, effectively maintaining the 2014/15 level for businesses with a rateable value up to £50,000.
At first glance this sounds like a positive measure, who wouldn't want a tax freeze at the moment? About 38,000 pubs in England & Wales have a rateable value of less than £50,000 (although the central Government only sets rates for England).
Business rates are a big issue for pubs and BBPA is currently campaigning to alleviate the cost pressure they place on publicans. A key part of this work is the extension of Small Business Rate Relief (SBRR) to the end of the Parliament, which has been a real benefit to small pubs, adding an extra £1,000 to the bottom line of the average pub.
This is where the Labour leader's plans may unravel. There seems to be no mention of SBRR. About 16,000 pubs currently benefit from a discount of between 50 and 100 per cent. If SBRR is extended until the end of the Parliament then Labour's plans seem to suggest that the publican of one of the smallest pubs could go from paying nothing to a ‘freeze’ that costs them thousands!
Admittedly this is all confused by what a small business is. Ed Miliband says it is up to £50,000; SBRR applies to businesses below £12,000; but there is a separate overall rate for businesses with a rateable value below £18,000. Pubs currently not receiving SBRR, but captured by Labour's rate 'cut', may therefore benefit. An easier solution to help see pubs would be to extend the SBRR threshold.
Businesses across the country have welcomed current plans to cut corporation tax. It rewards growth and makes Britain a more attractive place to do business and invest. Reversing this downward trend in corporation tax will undo much of that good work. It shouldn't be about pitting big against small businesses. In our sector we need both to thrive. Reversing cuts to corporation tax are just likely to lead to a stifling of innovation and reduce the level of support that large businesses offer to the smallest.
It is of course extremely positive that Labour is recognising the burden that business rates place on pubs and other operators, and the BBPA is be more than willing to discuss the principal behind these proposals with the party. At the same time the proposals outlined in Ed Miliband's do not seem to be the most effective way forward and could end up costing some small businesses more.
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On 20/09/13 by Neil Williams (Head of Media)
There is only a week to go until Cask Ale Week, with pubs and brewers gearing up to ensure the flag is well and truly flown for cask ale.
This year, Cask Ale Week has a great theme – introduce a friend. Around half of drinkers have never tried cask ale before – and nearly half of these think they won’t like it (wrongly, of course!). The campaign wants to encourage new customers to sample the delights of cask ale– and keep coming back for more throughout the year. As well as promotions in pubs, there will be new ales to try and the national launch of the Cask Report. There is also the excellent Cask Finder mobile app – great for tracking down the perfect pint.
At the BBPA we have been promoting the event and encouraging brewers and pubs to get involved – you might have seen the banner on the home page of our website in recent months. To help the team over at Red Flame communications, I went along to the Parcel Yard, the fantastic Fullers pub in the recently refurbished Kings Cross station, to take some pics with publican Nick Cameron (see pic). Fullers is drawing customers in with a promotional beer mat backed up by some great competition prizes.
The more people and businesses that support Cask Ale Week the better, so visit the website at www.caskaleweek.co.uk and get involved in savouring the variety and flavour of our amazing cask ales.
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On 20/09/13 by Richard Matthews (Midlands Secretary)
In an earlier blog I spoke about how industry engagement in initiatives to ease the burden of red tape and regulation was starting to have an impact on the legislative and compliance environment.
Now it seems that local authorities – certainly in many parts of the Midlands – are taking up the challenge by helping industry access their services much more quickly and efficiently.
Talk to Reg developed by the Better Business for All (BBfA) initiative, provides an online resource for all businesses to get expert advice on meeting legislation, providing a single point of contact for regulatory guidance.
The portal features contact details and useful information for organisations responsible for food safety, health and safety, environmental protection, licensing, trading standards and fire safety.
It is part of a new approach that is being led by the Greater Birmingham & Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership (GBSLEP) and the Better Regulation Delivery Office (BRDO), which focuses on effective regulation being a catalyst for business growth.
The idea was pioneered by Lichfield District Council but now extends across a wide area of the West Midlands. Simply punch in your postcode and contacts for the appropriate departments flash up.
The categories have been designed so they match what a business might be looking to find; for example food safety inspections, building regulations, tax and employment. There’s even a section on business advice.
The early signs are that this facility is being well used by the business community particularly as the service is also available on smartphones.
It answers the long-held criticism from businesses and licensees in particular who say they can waste valuable man hours trying to track down the right contact in the right department.
In another initiative in the same LEP area Cannock Chase District Council has led the way with its Environmental Health Business Support team offering free support to businesses to help in simplifying compliance with regulations and improving areas such as hygiene and health and safety standards.
Instead of inspections, its environmental health team is offering free advice visits, regular updates on new legislation and regular telephone support from a dedicated Business Support Officer.
This can help businesses including pubs improve their food hygiene rating without having to wait for their next routine inspection. What’s more the service is free of charge and does not involve enforcement action.
Other authorities have shown interest in a similar scheme and now Birmingham City Council is set to take it up.
Initiatives such as this can only help the relationship between the regulators and businesses and the BBfA scheme, currently being trailed with the GBSLEP and the Leicester and Leicestershire Enterprise Partnership before being rolled out to other LEPs, can take much of the credit for providing the umbrella for this to be achieved.
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On 19/09/13 by Andy Tighe (Policy Director)
Ever wondered how much illicit alcohol and tobacco is seized by the authorities and what they are doing about it? Well the answer is a lot on both counts as highlighted by the first quarterly bulletins on tobacco and alcohol smuggling being published by HMRC as part of a new communications exercise on the issue.
Between April and June, 1.8 million litres of beer, 0.5 million litres of wine and over 90,000 litres of spirits were seized with a combined revenue value of £4.6 million (£1.8million for beer, £1.6million for wine and £1.1million for spirits). These are big numbers and clearly the legitimate industry has a key role to play in helping HMRC reduce the level of fraud and the opportunities for fraud. Indeed the current Government consultation on the next steps to tackle fraud includes a number of actions proposed by the BBPA alongside proposals for a registration scheme for wholesalers and a new due-diligence requirement for producers and traders in duty-unpaid goods.
However it is the figures for tobacco that are truly astounding. In the last quarter alone, over 400 million cigarettes and 103 tonnes of hand-rolling tobacco were seized with a revenue value of £137 million. This is despite a huge focus on this area for a number of years and measures such as fiscal marks and supply-chain legislation being in place for a number of years.
For both alcohol and tobacco a major incentive for fraud is the very high excise duty rates in the UK, particularly within a single European market with little by way of border controls. Tax harmonisation has not happened, the EU has expanded and disparities with our nearest European neighbours remain very significant and in many instances have grown.
Clearly HMRC has a hugely difficult job and, like us, I am sure many officers would have been happy with the Chancellor’s decision to cut beer duty in March and finally start to erode fraudsters’ profit margins.
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On 16/09/13 by Brigid Simmonds (Chief Executive)
I am currently reading Robert Louis Stevenson's Travels with a Donkey, which is particularly appropriate given this month’s travel-heavy schedule and my recent holiday in the Cevennes! I am of course very thankful that methods have improved somewhat – as I will be taking the usual plane or train as opposed to donkey… September brings regional meetings, party conferences and the Brewers of Europe gathering in Croatia. So here are a few words on each…
Last week I attended the SBPA meeting in Edinburgh where, among other things, we watched a presentation about the partnership with Jobcentre Plus in Scotland and our continuing work with VisitScotland to promote beer and pubs as a part of the economically significant Scottish hospitality industry.
Towards the end of the week I headed to Manchester for the North West BBPA meeting and a farewell lunch for Lee Le Clercq. Apparently his Grandfather, Jean Baptiste Le Clercq, left the Marne and became apprenticed as a Cooper at the Mortlake brewery - what a small world. Whilst tidying up before retirement Lee came across a wonderful book written by a former secretary to the NW Association entitled A History of the Brewers Central Association, which looks back to its formation in 1869, some 35 years before the Brewers Society was formed in London! We have carefully stored the book away in our BBPA library. Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose! In 1875 they achieved a remission of Brewers Licence Duty from the Chancellor of the Exchequer for over £60,000! Some 138 years later.....
So now to Party conferences - first Glasgow, for the Liberal Democrats, then Brighton, for Labour, and Manchester, for the Conservatives. These will provide opportunities to meet MPs and their advisors in less formal surroundings to discuss issues of interest and how we can work together. At each one the Parliamentary Beer Group hosts a reception and I also attend a range of fringe meetings with many of our partners such as Drinkaware.
As a mid conference break I will be heading down to Acton Trussell for our Regional Key Issues Forum. If you have not yet booked your place for the 25th September there is still time. An important aspect of the day will be the involvement of Europe’s leading provider of energy services, Cofely GDF Suez. This is not just about changing light bulbs in pubs and I would encourage you to book in your relevant production managers for the Forum, via Richard Matthews.
Brewers of Europe are to meet in Dubrovnik, Croatia, later this month. This will be an opportunity to assess the study undertaken in collaboration with Ernst & Young about the links between brewing and the on-trade and the ongoing economic study of the value of brewing. This is sure to inspire discussion as to how we influence the US/EU trade talks and change the tariffs for imports and exports for beer between the US and the EU.
I will be sure to keep you updated on the outcomes of the month’s many voyages…
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On 13/09/13 by Daisy Blench (Policy Manager - Responsibility)
This week we have been inundated with news stories based on research from Newcastle University that claims that football fans see around two references to alcoholic drinks per minute when watching televised football.
The research team, from their public health department, also argue that that millions of children are exposed to this advertising making them more likely to take up drinking. The report which analysed six matches shown on BBC, ITV and Sky calls for tighter Government restrictions on alcohol sponsorship of sports and advertising during televised football.
Quite apart from the fact that the balance of evidence does not support a significant link between alcohol advertising exposure and consumption and the fact that key trends are all going in the right direction – total alcohol consumption down 12% since 2004, percentage of 11-15 years olds trying alcohol down 25% in the last decade, age of first drink now higher – this entirely ignores the huge importance of sports sponsorship and the unique role that the alcohol industry plays.
Income from sponsorship plays a vital role in supporting sporting activity at all levels. As the Government looks at how to make the Olympic legacy of encouraging greater participation in sport and to help develop the elite medal winners of the future a reality this support has never been more important.
A 2011 report by the Brewers of Europe puts the total financial contribution of Europe’s Brewers to sponsorship and community support at around €900 million.T his substantial figure is important in its own right in supporting participation in sports of all kinds and fostering emerging talent. The involvement goes far beyond the purely financial; to the core feature of promoting social responsibility in their sponsorship agreements ranging from development of grassroots sport to the active promotion of responsible consumption and retailing. This extra activity would be much less likely if the sponsorship was from another sector.
This includes the display of the Drinkaware logo alongside company branding driving traffic to the website, displaying customer unit awareness information, ensuring the availability of bottled water at matches and rigorous staff training regimes that prevent underage or irresponsible selling. All of these are tangible actions which brewers are committed to through their sports sponsorship and have clear benefits for fans.
At the FA cup semi-final weekend in 2012 traffic to the Drinkaware website was up 30% on the previous weekend due to the exposure given to it by the brand sponsor Budweiser. So a direct result of this sponsorship was a higher number of people accessing information on responsible drinking.
Advertising and sponsorship are already effectively governed by a comprehensive system of self-regulation through the Portman Group Code on packaging and marketing and the ASA Codes on broadcast and non-broadcast advertising which ensure that advertising is appropriately targeted and does not encourage irresponsible associations or content. Additionally, all broadcast alcohol advertisements are pre-approved before being aired.
Reports of this nature should be less quick to call for more regulation and should instead look at the real picture – the crucial importance of the funding from alcohol sport sponsors and the key role they play in promoting responsibility.
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On 11/09/13 by David Wilson (Director of Public Affairs)
I had the great pleasure of visiting the Arkell’s Brewery in Swindon last weekend for an open day and beer festival to celebrate their 170th anniversary. I have always had a strong affinity with Arkell’s having been born and bred in Swindon myself – in fact my Junior School was downwind of the brewery stack and family and friends have worked there throughout my life.
In a packed brewery yard, complete with wonderful vintage cars, steam engines and motorbikes, I was delighted to bump in to a former school friend, Robert Mercer – we were in the school recorder group together! Robert has been brewing at Arkell’s since we left school 32 years ago – like his father and older brother before him.
The festival was a brilliant showcase of beers from pretty much all of Britain’s family brewers and demonstrated the collaboration and mutual support that characterises our industry. I particularly enjoyed the new Arkell’s UK Cascade single hop beer, one of a new exciting range introduced by new Head Brewer, Alex Arkell.
I would go as far to say that Arkell’s are loved in the town and the villages around Swindon. They are the oldest surviving business in the town – a living embodiment of the British love for beer and pubs and of a family business managed for the long-term with a strong commitment to their workforce and the community.
Some would call it old-fashioned, but this is one way of living and working I hope never goes out of fashion. As the next generation of Arkells help to shape the beer and the pubs to cater for modern tastes I hope the company can look forward to many years of future success.
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On 06/09/13 by Steve Livens (Policy Manager - Product Assurance & Supply Chain)
Wednesday felt more like a sunny September morning on a Californian vineyard, as 400 invitees from across the brewing industry found themselves in the beautiful surroundings of Stocks Farm in Worcestershire for the 2013 Charles Farm hop harvest open day.
The farm is home to Ali and Richard Capper and over 100 acres of hops that include several different hedgerow and tall hop varieties, all proudly displayed for the visiting masses! The Cappers have been growing hops at Stocks Farm for many years but the farm suffered from wilt in the 1980s, with the result that all the hops grown there must have some tolerance or resistance.
But it isn't just the established varieties that visitors stumble across whilst they amble around this huge farm. Hidden amongst the Goldings, Target, Sovereign and First Gold you'll also find Endeavour, the first new hedgerow variety that was developed by Peter Derby at Wye Hops Ltd.
New varieties currently being trialled also include the mysterious Jester. Whereas hop flowers used for brewing come from the female hop plant, Jester is a hop that has grown with both female and male elements in a single plant. This is the first year that Jester has been grown at Stocks Farm. The variety has produced some beautiful, extended cones which apparently produce a zesty, citrus pineapple character in beer.
Another hop to spot on the leisurely, self-guided tour around the farm is the Bramling Cross. A fantastic, established British Hop variety that is enjoying renewed interest. It is a sensitive plant though, and must be handled with care, with each bine stemming from hand-planted stock. Holes must be dug, lined with manure, watered and only then can the plants be added. It’s then a matter of waiting. If the Bramling Cross isn't planted correctly its delicate root structure won't form properly and the crop won't fully develop.
So what's the outlook for the UK hop harvest this year? As Ali noted, we are only three days into the 2013 harvest so there is all to play for. However, the early summer was not ideal and recent heat has led to the flowers of some varieties being slow to fully develop. However, we still look to have a better crop than in some areas of Europe.
Greater use and awareness of British hops will help to protect the industry. Our unique maritime climate makes for perfect conditions for the cultivation of both new hops and existing varieties. Many of the hops grown in other countries owe their heritage to British legacy hops - we have some of the world’s best aroma and flavour hops growing right here in our home soil.
The British Hop Association would love to see UK brewers advertise their use of British hops and has developed logos for this purpose. These can be downloaded from the BHA website. Our challenge for the next year though is for UK brewers to shout about their use of British hops and name the varieties they use to educate and enthuse consumers. And why not. So come on, let’s hop to it!
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