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Inconsistent enforcement – the Primary Authority solution

On 03/10/13 by Jim Cathcart (Policy Manager - Pub Operations)

Bad enforcement by police, the licensing authority, fire officers and EHOs can be the bane of a pub operator’s life. Whether this is turning up to check paperwork at 9pm on a Saturday night, or over-zealous officers making licensees jump through multiple hoops with no evidence that there is even a problem at the premises, makes an already challenging job that little bit more difficult. However, now there is a solution to problems such as these that is worth considering in order to bring more consistency and fairness to those on the receiving end of such action.

Of course, there are really good examples out there of local authorities and enforcement agencies seeing their role as helping legitimate businesses prosper by treating them fairly, and targeting inspections on those who are deliberately flouting the law and putting customers and the public at risk. The challenge has always been the inconsistency in approach between these areas of the country, and areas where officers have an ‘us and them’ attitude towards the trade. In the last couple of years a solution has presented itself in the form of Primary Authority relationships – spearheaded by the Better Regulation Delivery Office (BRDO), part of the Government’s business department.

Primary Authority itself is a simple policy – in essence a business (for example, a managed pub operator with a range of sites across the country) chooses a local authority where it has a good relationship with regulators, say Borsetshire Council. This company has had a problem at some of its sites with over-zealous enforcement of health and safety, so it signs a Primary Authority agreement with Borsetshire and agrees standard risk assessments and inspection plans for its estate. Once this is in place, the next time a local authority anywhere in the country insists one of the company’s pubs must go above and beyond what is reasonably set out in its operating practices, the Primary Authority relationship kicks in and the company does not have to comply with these requirements as it has a pre-agreed system in place with Borsetshire that supersedes the local officials. This company is in effect guaranteed consistent enforcement and inspection practice relating to health and safety across its entire estate, regardless of where the individual pubs are located.

Primary Authority does not apply to all areas of law at present - such as licensing - and there is a cost attached. However, it is constantly developing as trade associations and franchises (which include tenanted pubs) are now in scope. BBPA is working with BRDO to explore the expansion of the scheme.

Primary Authority offers businesses a way to ensure consistent and fair enforcement across the country, and will hopefully develop further. For more information on Primary Authority agreements, which a number of BBPA members have taken forward, visit the BRDO website here.

Jim Cathcart
Policy Manager - Pub Operations


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From Glasgow to Brighton and a few places in between!

On 01/10/13 by Brigid Simmonds (Chief Executive)

The Liberal Democrats chose to hold their conference in Glasgow this year at the Scottish Exhibition and Conference centre along the river Clyde. If you have not been to Glasgow for a while, it has been transformed, particularly around the river bank and as they prepare to host the Commonwealth Games next year, there is considerable investment in infrastructure. It was, however, a rather a complicated space for the Lib Dems and my abiding memory will be walking miles!

We had some good fringe meetings. Jeremy Browne MP, the Home Office Minister, was pragmatic in his approach to crime and disorder. He talked about the need to ensure Lib Dems did not penalise moderate drinkers and the role of personal responsibility. With Hanover I attended the Lib Dem dinner and had the opportunity to thank Danny Alexander MP, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, for our Budget cut, and urge him for another next year, as well as putting in a bid for the extension of the small business rate relief.

From Glasgow I jetted off to to Dubrovnik in Croatia for the Brewers of Europe meeting. They have just launched a major report on the support for beer in the on-trade throughout Europe. All Secretaries General reported on what was happening in our own particular country. The UK was certainly more positive than many others. Lithuania has a competition commission investigation into a voluntary agreement that they would not brew beers greater than 9.2% abv. Portugal has lost 10 litres per capita since the recession. Italy is looking to increase excise duty and in Spain they are increasing the drinking age from 16 to 18. One can almost work out the economic status of the various countries from their reports! There were many more positive discussions to accompany this, but the narrative was clear.

Next onto Brighton where the Labour Party held it’s conference in sunshine and warmth (weather wise!). Diane Abbott MP (Shadow Minister for Health) was very vocal on minimum pricing. She seems to think that the reason consumption has come down is because there are people in cities who do not drink at all. She claimed that alcohol costs less per unit than Coke in some shops in Hackney. Her views, however, do not seem to be shared by other shadow ministers or to be Labour Party policy. Elaine Hindal the CEO of Drinkaware did very well to handle some hostile questions from the delegates and health professionals present. I had some very good encounters and meetings as did David Wilson and other members of my team.

Finally (for this week at least), I spoke at the Key Issues Forum organised by our Regional Secretary Richard Matthews in the Midlands. It was very well attended, with about 50 members present, and we heard some excellent presentations including Visit Peak District who are very keen to engage with pubs and help with marketing. Arnold Fewell, whose father was company secretary at Truman’s brewery, could not have been more helpful in spelling out how pubs need to adapt to help those with disabilities. He is a contact well worth making. Poppleston Allen spoke on legislation; Suzy Jackson on the Perceptions Group and Cofely GCF-Suez who are environmental consultants completed the line-up.

So this week it is Manchester and two evenings with the Conservatives. BBPA will be publishing our report on the impact of the Budget cut and hopefully will have an opportunity to say “Cheers, George”!

Brigid Simmonds
Chief Executive


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Brighton hosts the return of populist politics

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.

Gareth Barrett


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What are Labour's plans on business rates? And what will it mean for pubs?

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.

David Sheen
Policy Manager - Economy & Environment


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Flying the flag for cask ale week

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.

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The more people and businesses that support Cask Ale Week the better, so visit the website at and get involved in savouring the variety and flavour of our amazing cask ales.

Neil Williams
Head of Media


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Pioneering new sources of expert advice

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.

Richard Matthews
Midlands Secretary


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Tackling excise fraud...a big issue

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.

Andy Tighe
Policy Director


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Travels in September

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…

Brigid Simmonds
Chief Executive


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The real role of beer sponsorship

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.

Daisy Blench
Policy Manager - Responsibility


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