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Sun sets on Late Night Levy

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.

Jack Shepherd
Policy and Information Officer


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Judging the BII Licensee of the Year award

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!

Brigid Simmonds
Chief Executive


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Pub is the Hub launches in East Sussex

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?

Brigid Simmonds
Chief Executive


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Accessibility – Gaining entrance to a win-win scenario

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 ( at the BBPA.

Jack Shepherd
Policy and Information Officer


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Reform of energy efficiency taxation for pubs and breweries - what the 2016 Budget told us

On 22/03/16

The 2016 Budget contained a vast range of measures that will affect the day-to-day running of a brewery or a pub. We have produced a summary of the full list of measures, which is available here. An area that has been mostly overlooked is proposed changes to energy efficiency tax and regulation.

The Government announced a consultation into the energy efficiency policy landscape at the Summer Budget in 2015. The BBPA alone responded to this on behalf of the brewing and hospitality industry with four key points.

Simplification of reporting - energy policy has become very complicated and business is expected to make a number of submissions to various Government agencies, in addition to their own internal monitoring and reporting commitments. The BBPA supported a move towards a single data return.

Continuation of Climate Change Agreements - brewing is an energy intensive process that can be heavily affected by energy taxation. To ensure the competitiveness of the British brewing sector it was essential that CCAs, which provide substantial discounts on the Climate Change Levy (CCL), was continued. For electricity this is a 90% discount and for gas it is 65%. Energy taxation increases could feed through to the price of the final product.

Abolition of Carbon Reduction Commitment - the CRC is a burdensome scheme for business that fails to deliver equivalent energy and carbon savings. The BBPA called for this to be abolished.

Protection for small businesses from increased taxation - the Government made clear that any revenue that was lost through the abolition of the CRC would need to be recouped through an increase in the overall rate of CCL. This would shift the burden of energy taxation from large businesses to small businesses who had hitherto been unaffected by CRC.

The 2016 Budget delivered on three of our four proposals. Overall this is a hugely positive outcome but there remains major uncertainty.

Reporting on energy use will be simplified. CCAs will be continued, protecting the UK brewing industry, which provides 85 per cent of the beer we drink in this country. And the irksome Carbon Reduction Commitment has been abolished, from 2019.

The fly in the ointment remains the lack of a commitment to protect small businesses like pubs from the Government's CRC reclaim. The headline rate of CCL will increase substantially from 2019. The rate for electricity will increase by 53 per cent and by 76 per cent for gas. This could affect many community pubs who we intend to fight to protect.

The Government has said they will continue the small business exemption from CCL but this is at fairly low level. Pubs pay no CCL on electricity if they use less than 1,000 kWh of electricity each month, and no gas levy if this is below 4,397 kWh per month. The BBPA strongly believes that this level needs to be increased to protect pubs from these major tax increases. But there should also be an onus on small pubs to take measures to reduce energy usage, not least because it contributes to the bottom line.

In light of these measures, and last year's Energy Savings Opportunity Scheme (ESOS) audits, the BBPA will be holding a Pub Industry Energy Symposium on 5th May at the DoubleTree Hilton West End in London. This will include a presentation from senior officials working on these reforms, the outputs from the ESOS audits and the launch of new best practice support for pubs.

Energy is going to be a colossal issue for the UK and this will affect the bottom line of brewers and pubs. The BBPA will continue to lobby to reduce the tax impact on the industry whilst promoting best practice to make the sector more sustainable. Join us on the 5th May to find out how.

The BBPA and its members are committed to improving the impact of the sector on the environment. We have set out the considerable efforts already made by the sector and our future aims in our environmental commitment, Brewing Green.


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How does British beer create so many jobs?

On 09/03/16 by Tom Pratt (Campaigns and Communications Officer)

Despite three successive duty cuts, British beer duty is still the second highest in Europe. By taking a look at the relationship between beer, brewing and employment, we can see why a fourth successive duty cut in the March 16th Budget is so vital to protecting the beer and pub sector, and the employment opportunities the sector affords so many.

In 2013, the Government abolished the beer duty escalator, and cut duty by 1p a pint. Further 1p cuts followed in both 2014 and 2015, and this historic hat-trick has had a hugely positive impact on beer and pub jobs - It is estimated that employment is 19,000 higher than it would have been had the Government stuck to its previous plans to raise beer duty.

Duty cuts have helped keep the price of a pint down, providing a boost to beer sales and helping to keep more pubs across Britain open.

It’s worth noting that 82% of all beer made in Britain is sold in this country, with one job in brewing creating one further job in agriculture, one in the supply chain, one in retail and 18 jobs in pubs.

beer and pub jobs

This last figure is particularly striking, and underlines the special relationship beer enjoys with the sector. Pubs continue to rely heavily on beer, as it accounts for around seven in every ten drinks sold in pubs, with draught beer very much the preserve of the Great British pub.

Many jobs in the sector go to young people, with over 44 per cent of those currently employed across beer and pubs under the age of 25. On top of this, the hospitality sector has created 165,000 apprenticeships in the last five years, with duty cuts playing a part in helping to stimulate this recent investment.

A further penny off a pint at Budget 2016 will boost employment by over 3,000 compared to the planned inflationary increase. This would keep up the momentum generated by three recent cuts in beer duty and provide valuable support to the beer and pub sector, and all those employed within it.

Tom Pratt
Campaigns and Communications Officer


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Britain's beer duty compared with EU Member States

On 04/03/16 by Tom Pratt (Campaigns and Communications Officer)

You may have seen a story in the Sun on Sunday, published last weekend, highlighting the ‘bevvy burden’ placed on British beer drinkers, taking their story from figures we’ve recently compiled on duty rates around Europe ahead of the Budget announcement on 16th March.

The headline speaks of Brits paying ‘13x more in beer tax than Germans’, yet our figures show that beer drinkers in Britain also pay more than those in Belgium, France and Spain. In fact, only the Government of Finland, charging 72p in duty for every pint, charges more on a 5% abv beer than the Treasury’s 52p per pint.

The full league table of EU duty rates is shown in the chart below. Even the EU average, of 17p, is three times lower than the British rate.

Duty rates across the EU

British drinkers in total are paying around 40% of all beer duty collected throughout the EU, whilst consuming only 12% of the beer.

These wide variations exist despite our successful work in helping to secure a hat-trick of beer duty cuts over the last three budgets.

Over 50 MPs have joined us in asking the Chancellor to #cutbeertax by leaving their ‘Message in a Barrel’ at a recent event in Parliament, urging the Chancellor to cut beer duty rates again, and others have shown their support by signing Early Day Motion 919.

The beer and pub sector supports almost 900,000 jobs, and contributes over £22bn to our GDP, figures that serve to underline why further cuts in beer duty are so vital in the forthcoming Budget.

A duty reduction on March 16th will be another step in the right direction in closing the gap with our European neighbours, but more importantly will help consumers and keep community pubs open.

Tom Pratt
Campaigns and Communications Officer


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National Pubwatch conference 2016 – Saving lives in the night-time economy

On 02/03/16 by Jim Cathcart (Policy Manager - Pub Operations)

As the majority of those in the trade will already know, pubwatches are voluntary groups set up by licensees working together to promote a safe drinking environment, in partnership with the police and the licencing authority.

This involves sharing best practice, banning known troublemakers and maintaining a good relationship between local pubs and enforcement officers – an approach that works, as an independent evaluation of pubwatch showed the vast majority of local authorities (76%), police (70%) and licensees (70%) believe a pubwatch contributes to a safer drinking environment in its local community. National Pubwatch is the voluntary body that supports existing pubwatches, provides guidance and assists in setting up new watches.

On to the conference, where following the welcome from National Pubwatch Chairman Steve Baker and the trade view from BII’s Nigel Williams (a veteran Sheffield licencee and more recently brewery owner) the attendees heard from David Crompton, Chief Constable of South Yorkshire police. Chief Constable Crompton highlighted the issues both police and the trade face in the night-time economy and the problems that can be caused by alcohol – but was unequivocal in his support for pubwatches as a key tool in assisting enforcement agencies and the trade generally in creating safe environments for people to socialise. He even went as far as to say that in his view, the work of National Pubwatch over the last 20 years had saved lives in the night-time economy. This was followed by annual awards for outstanding individuals who have supported pubwatches, for both licencee and police representatives.

The day continued with the break-out sessions, a hallmark of National Pubwatch conferences that really allows delegates to get close to current issues with key speakers and plenty of opportunity for questions, answers and debates. This year saw Nigel Connor, legal expert and JD Wetherspoon’s Company Secretary, tackle the complex but vital subject of data protection – a key consideration for all watches – and shed light on the law in this area. Barrister Gary Grant updated the conference on recent licencing developments all pub operators should be aware of, with key analysis of immigration changes to the licence regime.

The second break-out session from West Midlands Police focused on the dangers presented by so-called ‘legal highs’, and what licensees and door staff should be looking out for with regard to these psychoactive substances – which have differing effects and reactions from users. New drugs are evolving all the time, highlighting the importance of pubwatches in being a network that can share the latest information on this subject. Brian Arnott and his team gave an overview of the successful Street Pastors scheme; volunteers who patrol the late-night sector and help those who have had too much to drink, or are lost, or assist in defusing confrontational situations. National Pubwatch has recently financially supported the work of Street Pastors in Westminster, another example of partnership schemes working together which was further highlighted by the Local Alcohol Partnerships Group stand which showcased the work of National Pubwatch, the Portman Group, Best Bar None, PASS and others.

As it has done for the past thirteen years, the National Pubwatch conference provided in-depth discussion sessions with leading experts, a chance for licensees to meet National Pubwatch representatives and ask questions on the day-to-day practicalities of running a pubwatch, and a forum for the trade, police, local authorities and others to network on common issues. The unique nature and importance of the conference was highlighted by a capacity attendance of almost 200 delegates. The BBPA has been a supporter and promoter of pubwatches and National Pubwatch for a number of years, and we urge members to support National Pubwatch and promote this scheme to their lessees, tenants and managers – especially those new to the trade.

Jim Cathcart
Policy Manager - Pub Operations


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Tackling the business rates burden on pubs

On 26/02/16

Ahead of Budget 2016, the BBPA has been working night and day to persuade the Chancellor to cut duty on beer, the core product of the great British pub, the drink that makes up seven in ten sales.

However, there are a range of other taxes that affect pubs, from business rates to employment and energy tax, where we work hard for a fairer burden on our sector.

Beyond beer duty, business rates are a very high priority

Business rates in their current form are hugely unfair to pubs. Analysis from the BBPA shows that pubs pay 2.8 per cent of business rates but generate around 0.5 per cent of business turnover. This equates to an overpayment of £500 million, relative to turnover, for the sector, as we pointed out in our response to the Government's review of business rates in the summer of 2015.

The iniquity of the system was further laid bare in a recent analysis of the tax burden on the pub commissioned by BBPA from Oxford Economics. This showed that pubs were the second highest taxed, per pound of turnover, out of 69 sectors surveyed.

There are a number of reasons for this discrepancy - many sectors receive major discounts, such as agriculture and charities - but the main reason is that pubs are not very ‘property efficient’ compared to shops, for example. There is no reason why they should be; pubs provide a valuable community service, they allow people to come and enjoy their amenities for a relatively low cost; the price of a pint.

Business rates are a major cost for pubs and therefore a major concern for the BBPA. So what are we doing about it? There are a number of areas where we have been focused on reducing this burden, broadly broken down into review and reform, revaluation and final bills & reliefs.

Review and reform

The Government announced in the Autumn Statement 2014 that there would be a fundamental review into how business rates operate in the UK. At their simplest level, business rates are a tax on the annual rental value of a property, using a five-yearly assessment of that rental value. This basis of taxation has to apply across all business types regardless of the model under which they operate.

The review looked at a number of issues concerning how business rates operate. Issues that received the most attention were the lengthy intervals between revaluations and the underlying basis of rates.

The first point had been exacerbated by a Government decision to extend the time between revaluations from five to seven years, meaning property valuations had become out of sync with current economic conditions (2008 compared with 2015).

The BBPA considered that more frequent revaluations could have some benefits but also added uncertainty. A sudden upturn in trading conditions could lead to a sharp annual increase in your rates bill. Whilst being sympathetic to a shortened revaluation period, we did not believe this would be a fundamental improvement.

The second area was more fundamental. How do you levy a business tax that applies across all sectors?

The British Retail Consortium undertook a major piece of research which looked at four different mechanisms for changing business rates in its Road to Reform report. These included moving to a different basis, such as an energy tax; providing a discount on employment; rewarding successful businesses through corporation tax reform; or modernising the current system.

The BBPA examined all of these options. We felt that a modernisation of the current system was preferable, as the others presented greater risks to the sector. However we were very clear in our response that taxing businesses on property remained unfair to businesses such as pubs and therefore a system of reliefs was necessary to alleviate this burden.

The research that the BBPA carried out into how unfairly pubs are treated under the current rates regime is a landmark for the sector. It ensures that the pub sector has substantial evidence to support our case for reducing the burden of business rates.

As part of wider reforms the Government has already announced plans to devolve rate-setting power to local authorities. At the Conservative party conference local authorities were told they would be able to reduce business rates to stimulate growth. It was also announced that areas with a directly elected mayor could increase rates by up to 2p in the pound with the support of the business community for infrastructure projects. We await further details, but there needs to be clear support for existing businesses, including through existing reliefs.

The process for appealing business rates is also under review and is an area where the BBPA has been leading calls for change. The current appeals process causes huge delays to businesses making representations for changes to their rates. The BBPA has informed the Government's response through the consultation process and is confident that the new regime will be move favourable to publicans, when compared with the current unsatisfactory system. The review is due to publish its findings in Budget 2016.


Business rates bills are based on the rateable value (RV) of a property. This is an estimate of the annual cost of renting that property. This is calculated in different ways by the Valuation Office Agency (VOA) and its devolved counterparts. These were last set in April 2010, based on the rental value at April 2008. Essentially, every rates bill is dependent on how much it cost the business to rent the building they operate from in April 2008.

The latest revaluation of business property is currently underway. This will set a new RV from April 2017, based upon the rental value as at April 2015. This will have a major impact on the rates bills of pubs across the country. The BBPA has had a constructive dialogue with the VOA, with expert analysis and input from surveyors with an in-depth knowledge of the pub industry to help ensure a new basis for rateable values that better reflects the pub landscape of 2015 than of 2008.

Importantly, this will deliver much lower rateable values than the VOA had originally been looking at. This should be a positive first step from 1st April 2017 with pubs receiving more favourable RVs than would have been the case - by as much as 15 per cent on some calculations. The devil will of course be in the detail, but we feel this is a great result that works well for ratepayers.

New RVs are expected to be made available online on 1st October 2016 (and not sent by post as in previous years). They should give an indication of what the rates bill for the next five years will be.

Final bills and reliefs

The two issues of rates and reliefs relate to future work, although neither is too far off.

The final business rates bill is a combination of the RV, the multiplier (the announced tax rate per pound of RV) and any reliefs available.

The BBPA has led and coordinated the campaign on these critical elements on behalf of the pub sector and its wider supply chain, under the banner of Better Rates for Pubs.

Over the last few years the Better Rates for Pubs campaign has highlighted the burden that business rates place on pubs and proposed measures to lighten the load.

This has seen some real success, with a cap on the overall multiplier, extensions to Small Business Rate Relief (SBBR) and the introduction of Retail Relief. The latter two were targeted measures that have removed cost from the bottom line of struggling pub businesses. These have been achieved by working in partnership with others in the retail sector.

In the latest campaign, ahead of the Autumn Statement 2015, there was mixed success as Government tightened its belt. SBRR was extended for a further year but Retail Relief was discontinued. The overall rate was increased by inflation, which fortunately was at a very low level.

This loss of Retail Relief was hard to bear. It was a highly targeted measure that supported pubs and other businesses that were disadvantaged by the current regime. At the time, our Chief Executive Brigid Simmonds commented that this was “effectively a £1,500 tax increase for the majority of pubs,” adding £46 million to pubs’ rates bills. In its submission to Treasury ahead of Budget 2016 the BBPA has called for Retail Relief to be reinstated, at least until the revaluation in 2017.

What does the future hold?

These are uncertain times for those that pay business rates, and particularly those that are unfairly burdened, as pubs undoubtedly are. Pubs need to be aware of:

• The anticipated loss of Retail Relief from April 2016.
• The revaluation from 1st April 2017 - it will cause upheaval and will mean higher costs for some, particularly those that have thrived
• The impact of devolution on rates - this will come from April 2017 in Wales and before 2020 in England - and could lead to higher rates where there is a devolved Mayor
• Potential abolition of national reliefs, such as Small Business Rate Relief

The BBPA believes the current business rates regime is profoundly unfair to pubs and will continue to fight for a better deal for British pubs in all of these areas. We have made representations to the Chancellor and his colleagues ahead of the forthcoming Budget, and will be campaigning hard to make sure the rates system does not undermine the great British pub sector and the 32 million who visit pubs each year.


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