On 01/08/16 by Jack Shepherd (Policy and Information Officer)
The Licensing Act 2003 has at its core the principle that local areas – through their local authorities and elected councillors – should have a say on alcohol licensing in their localities. The Localism Act 2011 expanded the remit of local authorities and enshrined in law the move towards a less centralised structure of power in areas other than licensing. There are, of course, many benefits to this. Local councils are able to adapt to local circumstances, innovate to provide services at lower costs and ensure that democracy remains close to the people.
However, with greater power comes greater responsibility. Camden’s consultation on a new Statement of Licensing Policy is concerning as it seemingly goes further than the law and attempts to introduce an initiative beyond the scope of national legislation. The policy in question effectively looks to promote public health as a new licensing condition in addition to the four objectives set out by Government in the Licensing Act 2003. Whilst the new Statement of Licensing Policy objectives closely follow the Home Office Guidance issued under Section 182 of the 2003 Act, almost mirroring them exactly in most instances, there is one seemingly small yet significant addition of three words. The objective in question is as follows:
‘To provide a regulatory framework for alcohol which reflects the needs of local people including their health’.
Camden’s draft Licensing Policy proceeds to build upon on public health considerations a number of times, including setting out some ‘best practice’ related to public health for licensees to consider when completing their operating schedules.
This should be of great concern. There is no reference to public health as a licensing objective in the national guidance to the Licensing Act as it explicitly states that ‘there are no other statutory licensing objectives, so that the promotion of the four objectives is a paramount consideration at all times’. Indeed, public health can only be considered when relating to a specific premises and in detriment to one of the licensing objectives. Importantly Government has rejected public health as a licensing objective, in relation to cumulative impact, in a previous consultation and going forward there is no indication of an intention from Government to include public health as a licensing objective in the main Act. This decision is predicated on some key limitations and drawbacks. Public health data is not collected in a form that allows a causal link between public health concerns and individual premises, and is therefore unlikely to be considered relevant . Further concerns relate to the inaccuracy of statistics on alcohol as the primary cause of harm and the harm that is caused through alcohol consumption before entering the responsible environment of a premises.
Critically then, Camden’s draft Licensing Policy is effectively looking to introduce an initiative on public health in contradiction with national policy and subsequent consultations that have been closely scrutinised and consulted upon before being defined in law. We must therefore consider the democratic process. Yes, there are many important benefits to localism - but where do we draw the line?
If we are to discuss localism and public health, we should perhaps acknowledge the significant contribution made by many licensed premises to the responsible, safe and vibrant local economies through a number of partnership schemes and responsibility initiatives such as PubWatch, Best Bar None and Challenge 21/25. Further, we should reflect upon the significant benefits to health and wellbeing that are provided by pubs through an environment that encourages positive social interaction and the opportunity to build and maintain friendships. These contributions may be difficult to quantify at times but are, nonetheless, invaluable. If we are to consider localism and public health, I know which initiatives I’m backing.
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On 22/07/16 by Jim Cathcart (Policy Manager - Pub Operations)
After many years of select committee inquiries, reports, super-complaints, consultation and extensive parliamentary debate, we now have a statutory code of practice and independent adjudicator overseeing the tied pub sector.
Those companies covered by the statutory code are committed to implementing it in the best way possible and working with the Pubs Code Adjudicator to ensure that the new code functions fairly for both companies and their tenants and lessees. As with any piece of legislation, and perhaps even more so as this regulates the commercial elements of a complex industry, we will have to wait and see how this affects the British pub sector and for all involved it will be a learning process.
At the same time, the implementation this week of three evolved codes of practice clearly shows that self-regulation is in fact stronger than ever.
Thirty-three companies in England and Wales (operating over 4,000 tied pubs) are signed up to the system, with a further six companies covering the majority of tied pubs in Scotland also on board. These include not just members of the British Beer & Pub Association and the Independent Family Brewers of Britain – who have been involved in the self-regulatory system for many years – but other operators who have now firmly endorsed the idea of robust codes backed by independent, low-cost dispute resolutions for rent issues and other matters.
There is no other business sector that operates such a system, with the codes covering every element of the relationship between the landlord company and their tenant. This includes obligations for both parties before an agreement is signed, pre-entry training to explain how the business model works and what the tenant can expect at the final interview for the pub – before moving on to key points in the ‘life’ of the agreement such as rent reviews, insurance, machines and general interaction with the pub company or brewery.
The codes are designed to be as clear and straightforward as possible, with a separate code for tenancies and another for leases, further highlighting that these are practical and workable documents that have been developed over many years of experience and designed specifically for the tied pub sector. For the first time, Scotland has its own code which takes into account legal differences in property law in Scotland and makes it clear that tied tenants have access to PIRRS (rent disputes) and PICA-Service (other disputes) through those with specific Scottish expertise.
The new codes are an evolution of the Industry Framework Code and replace the myriad individual company codes with one set of definitive codes. Lessees and tenants will continue to have access to low cost arbitration of rent and other disputes, through PIRRS and PICA-Service, which have operated successfully and are flexible enough to adapt to a sector where there is constant change. The codes are overseen by the Pub Governing Body which includes both company and tenant representatives and has an independent chair in the form of ex-BIS Select Committee chairman Sir Peter Luff who oversaw a number of Parliamentary hearings involving the tied pub sector.
Self-regulation in the pub sector works – as evidenced not just by the latest developments in the system but also by the fact that the dispute resolution procedures have been used in practice to solve and give redress to tenants, as part of a tailored and low-cost service of benefit to the thousands of pub operators across England, Wales and Scotland which will continue into the future.
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On 11/07/16 by Brigid Simmonds (Chief Executive)
On Thursday morning Marcus Jones MP, the Minister with responsibilities for high streets, town centres and markets (as well as community pubs), launched the 2016 Great British High Streets competition, with a visit and launch at the Camden Business Improvement District. Much to my amusement the building was originally built as a Temperance Hospital! He was joined by Simon Roberts, the CEO of Boots in the UK and together they jointly chair the High Street’s Executive Board.
I am chairman of the High Street’s Partnership Working Group which has been responsible for encourage companies to sign up to the business pledge, promising at a local level to engage managers in active and strategic leadership of the high street; helping to deliver more employment opportunities, renewed pride in the high street and better local connections for national businesses, all with an objective of achieving greater investment, increases in long term footfall and jobs growth.
Over 40 companies have signed the pledge and together they represent over 22,000 outlets, plus 11,500 post offices. There is certainly more scope for other companies to join in, and the list of signatories can now be found on the Great British High Streets website.
The High Street’s Competition is now in its fourth year and I have been a judge for the last two. There are nine categories from village to city centre; the market town category was so popular last year that it has now been split into two. There is a rising star category along with four individual awards.
In Camden, we were joined by Rotherham, winner of last year’s Town Centre Category, who talked about why they won, discussing their investment in the historic core of Rotherham. They also discussed Rotherham’s pop-up shops, and a grant scheme aimed at reducing the cost of rents, and finally Rotherham’s national skills academy for retail. They revealed that as a result of their efforts, the high street was now fully let.
I gave examples of the great practice I saw as a judge in Bishops Waltham, Colwyn Bay, London Road Brighton, Raynes Park, Tamworth, Bognor Regis and Bath Place in Taunton.
Full details of this year’s competition can be found here. Everyone has a role to play to encourage your high streets to enter. It is exciting, rewarding, engaging, and locally based. Colleagues will enjoy it and see tangible results, and I urge you to nominate your local high street.
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On 08/07/16 by Brigid Simmonds (Chief Executive)
This week, the PMA held its first Pub Skills Summit; a timely subject amidst the current economic uncertainty in the UK - the need for training, skills and retention of staff could not be more important. As Barry Flack, a global HR expert remarked: “Technology can aid the lives of you and your team, but it does not replace the human element”.
After a fascinating introduction to the use of ‘Big Data’ from CPL Training, where 240 computers use ‘Thor and Roxie’ to look at structured and unstructured information (the latter mainly social media), we then had four wonderful presentations giving us practical examples of workplace development from individual pub companies.
Natasha Waterfield from the New World Trading Company described ‘Tribes’, a programme to unite colleagues working on 14 sites, where 426 miles separate their Glasgow HQ and their site in Farnham. 7 out of 14 sites are more than 90 minutes from HQ.
They wanted to make sure that their pubs did not act as silos, and encourage employee engagement, ensuring they felt part of the company. They developed six ‘tribes’; Discovery, Endeavour, Adventure, Orbiter, Kingfisher & Mayflower (your test for the day is to work out which explorer sailed each of these ships)! They then split their teams into 6, across all their sites, and engaged through an online tool which provides competitions, and incentives for qualifications and a healthy lifestyle. At the end of the year, the winning tribe of 300 colleagues is given two extra days of paid holiday.
Jill Scratchard from Oakman Inns explained ’Oakmanology’, which encourages knowledge and craftsmanship. Through an online application, it is mobile, rewarding accessible, measurable and structured, something you can do in 5 or 10 minutes at a bus stop.
Dawn Browne from Fullers explained their ‘service coaches’ drawn from 3,000 employees. They started with 25, doubled a year later and now have so many that they cannot host them in a Fullers’ pub. They help them train others when they refurbish a pub, troubleshoot when a venue has a problem and act as mystery shoppers with competitors.
The Service Coaches receive more than 120 hours of coaching, and as a result, customer satisfaction is higher in pubs with a service coach and turnover of staff is lower. They clearly make a difference to their business.
Michael Soderquest from Star Pubs & Bars explained how in 1996 the tenanted and leased estate were poor relations to managed houses, and how they introduced a 5-day residential induction for all new lessees. All have to buy a CPL training licence and must undertake the induction at least 4 weeks before they enter the pub.
They are asked, for example, to create a rota, to cost it up and work out their own wage percentage. They look at scenarios of adding 2% to their GP and then add 2% to expenses; the cleaner comes in and turns on all the lights before having a cup of tea, for example, which will impact on their initial predictions. The chef heats up all the equipment three hours before they need to use it, etc.
It illustrates how day to day actions affect profitability, and the scheme has dramatically reduced the first year failure rate.
Finally, Paul Dickinson and Gavin Sinden, who won the Chef of the Year award, talked about the recruitment of chefs, their apprenticeship programme and how they have attracted new chefs and strive to retain existing ones. Clearly still for many, attracting and retaining chefs is essential. We need pubs to be seen as attractive as working in a silver service restaurant.
It was certainly a good start to a subject which affects us all and requires creativity, investment and focus. The advent of the Apprenticeship Levy, increased costs through Living and Minimum Wage and the auto-enrolment for small companies into pensions means that everyone will want to attract, retain and train their teams. Learning from others who are achieving this is important to all.
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On 06/07/16 by Brigid Simmonds (Chief Executive)
A recently published report by the Royal Commonwealth Society, in partnership with leading aviation tourism and industry groups, is recommending that India is added to the UK’s latest £87 two-year visitor visa scheme.
Over the last ten years, fewer Indian tourists have been coming to Britain. France has now overtaken our country as laying claim to being the number one European destination for Indian tourists, welcoming over half a million of them each year.
Reforms to the visa system could help reverse the trend and help re-establish the UK as India’s premier European destination, whilst sending a strong message that Britain is still open for business in the wake of the EU referendum result.
Prime Minister David Cameron recently announced a pilot scheme offering Chinese visitors a two-year visitor visa for £87, and the Royal Commonwealth Society report recommends affording the same opportunity to Indian tourists. Currently, visitors from the sub-continent are granted a six-month visa costing £87, and have to pay £330 for the two-year option.
The proposed reforms are especially important as 2017 has been designated the UK-India year of Culture, and will mark 70 years of Indian independence through artistic, musical and business collaboration.
This celebration will be enjoyed between two nations that share deep economic and cultural ties, not least through the Indian diaspora in the UK of 1.4 million, but also through business - Indian business visitors contributed over £200 million to the UK economy in 2015.
More Indians are travelling abroad than ever before, with numbers growing 10% year-on-year, and these proposed changes could offer an attractive incentive to travellers and help the UK capitalise on the huge growth potential of Indian tourism.
The overseas tourism market is, of course, hugely important to British brewing and pubs. Visiting a pub is fourth on the list of things to do when tourists come to the UK, and seven out of ten overseas visitors come to a pub whilst they are here. India Pale Ale, an historic, world renowned style known more commonly as IPA, has been shipped to India since the 1820s, and, currently, beer exports to India from the UK are worth circa £300,000, a seven-fold increase since 2011.
Keeping ties with India will undoubtedly benefit beer and pubs, so the BBPA very much supports the extension of the two-year visa to India. In uncertain times in the UK, both politically and economically, keeping our Commonwealth links will be vital, and helps to show Britain as a country which is still open to the world.
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On 21/06/16 by Jack Shepherd (Policy and Information Officer)
Creating a safe and vibrant night-time economy has been the Holy Grail for both local authorities and the trade throughout the UK, and has increasingly appeared at the forefront of the agenda. Yet seven local councils have now adopted a Late Night Levy, a decision that seems to neglect the collaborative vision supported by the trade. The Levy is a discretionary power, introduced through the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011, and allows licensing authorities to raise contributions from late-night alcohol suppliers to help fund policing of the night-time economy. Levy charges are based on the rateable value of the property where the premises licence is held. Whilst the power is discretionary, local authorities work within a framework that is established at a national level and can then adjust certain aspects to suit specific localities.
Yet it has recently come to light that Cheltenham Borough Council will consult on the Levy that is currently in place. Cheltenham was the second ever local council to utilise the discretionary power but may now choose to abandon it altogether. If a decision is made to end the Levy, it will cease to be effective from March 31, 2017. The consultation follows a vote from local businesses in Cheltenham, supporting the establishment of a Business Improvement District (BID). The policy reversal would raise questions over the effectiveness of the Levy to achieve desired outcomes - and so it should.
In practice the Levy has proved inflexible and unworkable. The BBPA has been vocal on this point and has responded to a number of local council consultations on the Levy, as well as producing a joint report on alternatives to the Late Night Levy. In essence, a number of fundamental flaws exist. Firstly, the Levy can only be charged between the hours of 12am and 6am. This has led to a vast number of local businesses enacting minor variations to scale back opening hours, unveiling a sobering reality in which Levy revenue has fallen far short of local council predictions. Furthermore, legislation dictates that only 30% of Levy revenue can be allocated to local councils, with at least 70% allocated to police. A combination of the two aforementioned factors has led several councils to reject the Levy on the grounds that net revenue from the Levy will be insignificant when factoring in administration and implementation costs. Cheltenham Borough Council raised less than 39% of the £199,000 figure that had been predicted in the first year.
Most important of all, in its most basic form the Levy is a direct tax on local business, and one which unfairly disadvantages pubs. Pubs are at the centre of local communities up and down the UK and many are small, independently-run local businesses. What is more, pubs are leading the charge when it comes to championing a safe and vibrant night-time economy. The key criticism of councils that adopt the Levy is that they have not truly engaged with the local initiatives that are already in place, and to which many pubs are fully committed. The most relevant example here is the BID that Cheltenham will implement, possibly in place of the Levy. A BID scheme is fairer as it spreads the burden between businesses of all kinds and undoubtedly provides for more a targeted and business-led allocation of funds. Cheltenham’s willingness to implement a BID and to consult on the removal of a Levy is perhaps illustrative of a wider concept where local businesses are no longer viewed as the problem, but instead the solution to the problem, and a number of local councils have recognised partnership working as the way forward:
- A 2013 report by Bristol City Council’s Licensing Policy Scrutiny Board concluded that a BID scheme would provide for more targeted spending of funds and include businesses and stakeholders in efforts to manage the night time economy.
- In October 2012 Havant Borough Council’s Licensing Committee rejected a levy, citing falling levels of alcohol crime and disorder which the police had partly attributed to the successful local PubWatch scheme.
- Weymouth & Portland Borough Council Licensing Committee rejected a levy in 2015, due to a lack of evidence to support the scheme. In a report providing evidence to the council, Dorset police highlighted that a BID was already in place and it was supporting the local Best Bar None scheme.
BIDs, PubWatch and Best Bar None are just three initiatives that exist within a broader partnership framework. Other schemes such as Purple Flag, Street Pastors, Community Alcohol Partnerships and PASS have also provided tangible benefits and proven their worth in creating the night-time economy that all stakeholders are striving for. Local businesses are both willing and, more importantly, able to assist in creating a safe and vibrant local economy. With effective partnership working in place, such an environment is no longer the Holy Grail, but instead is entirely within reach. In contrast, the Levy is a step in the wrong direction.
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On 10/05/16 by Brigid Simmonds (Chief Executive)
It is always a privilege to be invited to judge the BII Licensee of the Year award, and I think this is the fourth year I have been involved. This year BII had 270 applicants – the most ever, and the final six were invited to meet with the judges in Staffordshire to decide on a winner.
I consider this award so special partly because it is so in-depth. This year, the top 50 pubs had mystery visits, and the last six finalists were inspected in their pubs by the dynamic chief judges; John Sharratt and Ashley McCarthy, who look at everything from cleanliness through to financial sustainability.
The final event took place at The Moat House, Acton Trussell, which is run by a former winner of the Licensee of the Year, Chris Lewis. If ever there was an example of what can be achieved, the Moat House is superb and the food excellent. A great atmosphere on the day, and I had the opportunity not only to take part in the formal judging, but also to meet and learn from the finalists themselves about what the real issues are for them when running great pubs in local communities.
Each finalist had to present to panels on 5 topics; Finance, People and Training, Marketing and Business Development, and Industry Issues. They then had 20 minutes to answer questions. Mark Baird from Diageo and I made up the Industry Issues Team and asked questions about social responsibility, the role they play in their community, and what sort of ambassadors they would like to be for BII were they to win.
We asked them all what they would most like to change in terms of regulation, with all of them mentioning VAT. Many also mentioned business rates, and the difficulties of providing consistent allergy information with changing menus. One idea was to incentivise local authorities to do more for small businesses; there was a clear pattern from all for the role of community pubs. The Living Wage and recent increases in National Minimum Wage were high on the agenda, but licensees agreed that paying staff properly, and investing in training, were important.
Most did not see changing the Licensing Act as a priority, which may be down to a lack of awareness, but was also a reflection of the many food-led pubs who are not encountering problems with the police or licensing authorities, who find the regulatory regime works at a local level. Most operated Challenge 25 and were well aware of their role in looking after their customers. All were going to take advantage of the extended hours for the Queen’s 90th Birthday, with or without the international football available that evening, which depended on whether you had TVs in the pub or not!
What impressed me most was the pubs’ involvement in their local communities. From providing free rooms for Parents/Teachers Associations, to working with the disadvantaged and disengaged, providing an edible beer garden, giving staff healthy meals and helping young parents with nursery vouchers, all played a big role in their local communities. All worked with Pubwatch, and many with other local business trade associations as well. They were all great and made you proud to be part of such an inspiring industry that plays such an important role in society.
I won’t tell you who has won – that has to wait until the BII Summer Event on 7th June, but to Gerry & Ann Price from The Inn, West End (not far from Camberley), Robin & Lucy Brewer of the Rashleigh Arms, Charlestown, Glen Pearson at the Shibden Mill Inn, Halifax, Andrew Fishwick of The Truscott Arms in London, Melanie Carus at The Metropolitan, West Didsbury, and Glen Duckett of the Eagle & Child in Ramsbottom, good luck with your great pubs, which we should all be proud to visit!
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On 21/04/16 by Brigid Simmonds (Chief Executive)
I was fortunate enough to be invited to the East Sussex launch of Pub is the Hub who are working with East Sussex County Council and Wealden District Council. As ever it was well organised and fun and a real offer of help for pubs wishing to diversify.
Chief Executive, John Longden explained the history of Pub is the Hub – established by the Prince of Wales in 2001 in Yorkshire, then Cumbria, Norfolk, Essex, Cornwall, Devon and in January this year in the Scottish Borders. He talked about pubs closing, but the infrequently mentioned statistics a round pubs opening too. The Community Services Fund can give up to £4,000 per project and they are now working with the Post Office Community Fund which can help pubs set up post offices in pubs more easily too. The vast majority of funding now comes from private investment and if you want to know more visit the Pub is the Hub website - steal as many ideas as you can from the 100 plus case studies – it is all free.
As ever there has to be a balance between commercial viability and community benefit, but with over 500 pubs involved, there is clearly a need and success to be had. As ever they need more funding. 27 projects are seeking funding at the moment, so if you have spare cash, they can always use them!
Anthony Miller, who is chairman of Pub is the Hub in the South East told us that in East Sussex there are 4 pubs for every other community building. He went on to talk about some of the services offered from a library in Pevensey, to lunch clubs for the elderly (interesting to read in the Times that the number of lonely people is likely to increase to 600,000 within two decades). One of the most innovative partnerships is the ‘Man Shed’ (can be for women too!), but provides a facility for the older generation to build something with their hands – pubs with redundant out-buildings would be ideal and they then have customers on the spot! Barclays explained their ‘digital eagles’ work where 1,200 of their staff offer to help train people to use computers and we heard from the Applause Touring company who can put on plays or storytelling in a pub or pub garden.
The Bull’s Head at Boreham Street hosts board games competitions and knitting groups. It even has its own beer brewed by Harveys! They developed 5 acres of ground and opened a camp site which brings more people into the pub. Always have something going on was the advice licensee Michael Cornfield.
Interested licensees were there to listen and hopefully go back and think about what other services they can offer. Clearly the District Council wants to keep open the pubs it has. They feel they cannot afford to lose more and so many are at the centre of community life and service. An inspiring and as ever with John Longden a fascinating day. BBPA support Pubs is the Hub – do you?
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On 08/04/16 by Jack Shepherd (Policy and Information Officer)
Here at the BBPA, we are strong advocates of the great British pub. Pubs have an ‘important role to play in building communities and friendships’ and are enjoyed responsibly by millions of people throughout the UK on a regular basis, as well as being a key attraction to overseas visitors.
It is fair to say that everyone should be able to enjoy pubs equally. For many of us it is hard to imagine that our choice of pub should be limited by anything other than preference. With this in mind, the BBPA has worked in recent years to produce a comprehensive Accessibility Guide and further guidance to assist Pubs in writing an access statement. This is of great significance to those with access needs, whose options can be limited.
Accessibility does not end with physical access to the pub. It is about creating the best experience for everyone who visits. A lot of simple modifications can often be readily made and staff training is key. Staff need to have the confidence and knowledge to meet the needs of disabled customers and the current BBPA guidance outlines several further easy adjustments that can be made to improve access.
Accessibility is relevant to pub companies from a responsibility perspective but also in terms of enhanced business success. Over one quarter (27%) of the UK population have a long standing health problem. Attracting the business of someone with access needs also attracts the spend of their entire party and this can create a huge market for pubs. In fact, it equates to a £2 billion market that businesses are able to tap into with improved accessibility.
Beyond the economic benefits, pubs are obligated to provide a service with reasonable adjustments to accommodate someone with a disability. Discrimination against someone with a disability is against the law under the Equality Act 2010. Here in lies the key point. Improved accessibility provides a win-win scenario for all, with pubs gaining access to a significant market whilst everyone is able to enjoy the benefits that they provide.
Accessibility is an issue that is continually cited in the press, as illustrated recently following a House of Lords Select Committee report recommending local authority action against pubs that fail to comply with the Equality Act. The BBPA continues to work proactively to encourage pubs to be as accessible as possible. Jim Cathcart, Pub Operations Manager for the BBPA, recently attended a roundtable event chaired by the Minister for Disabled People and received positive feedback on past BBPA guidance. As a result, the BBPA is updating its current accessibility guidance, so we can build on this work.
In light of the guidance update, the BBPA is asking members for case studies of access-friendly businesses in their pub estates. We are particularly interested in case studies surrounding usage of ramps, hearing loops, accessible menus and availability of accessible toilets, although all case studies will be gratefully received. We feel that this is a key opportunity to highlight the positive work that the industry undertakes in relation to accessibility. Let’s shout louder about the contribution that our industry makes and let’s spread the message so that all of us can enjoy our nation’s pubs.
Please send any case studies to Jack Shepherd (firstname.lastname@example.org) at the BBPA.
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