You could say, it’s been hectic, but today I had a little time and it seemed like a good point at which to share with our supporters and members what has been going on in the last 7 weeks.
We are delighted to have attracted so many members and supporters in such a short time and our main focus has been on supporting those people who really needed help in the difficult times the hospitality industry is facing.
We have set up a CRM system that allows us to treat each issue as an individual case, we can then provide support and record the progress and results, it means we can offer the best possible service to the member. It also means if we need to show government which issues are causing the most issues, or which unfair business practices are most common, we can do so and we have the evidence to support our claims and upon which to base our campaigning. So, we speak with authority and substance.
At a time when publicans are under more pressure than ever, I am pleased we can help them. We have many cases that we have already resolved and we are working on others at the moment, we also now have a system and process that is tested and works, so the main focus in the first 7 weeks has been in getting this and our helpline team up and running.
Dave Mountford has been particularly focused on helping publicans over the years but we realised that a lot of Dave’s work is dealing with issues that have already happened and therefore, we needed to be more proactive in getting information and guidance into the hands of publicans before they get into trouble in the first place. This will be particularly important in the tenanted pub sector where a lot of tenants are quitting their pubs, there will also be a high number of non-industry people who have been made redundant as a result of the pandemic and will be considering taking on a pub.
We intend to have the information and helpline that can support them with contracts, understanding what they are getting into, checking figures rather than just accepting them and realising rents may be set way too high for the pub they are looking at.
We intend to get proactive, practical, preventative information and help to people so hopefully, they do not need Dave’s help in the future!
We’ve taken some giant strides in our commitment to providing a real voice for publicans.
The Forum of British Pubs has written to each of the regulated pub companies and their code compliance officers to let them know who we are and what we do, we have also established communication links with a couple of non-regulated companies. We also intend to contact the smaller family brewers in the coming weeks, with the same objectives.
We are pleased to have been approached by the Tavern Propco/ Global Mutual Tenant Group and are representing them in negotiations with Global Mutual who own their pubs. We look forward to continue to assist them in resolving their ongoing discussions with the property company giant.
We have written to 60 MPs who had all expressed an interest in the trade and the issues it faces, including the Pubs Code and the Pubs Code Adjudicator (PCA). We detailed who we were, what we are doing and most importantly what we think can be done to improve the sector and ensure that the Pubs Code and the Adjudicator are doing the job parliament intended.
In the case of the PCA we have constructively written to them asking to be included in the tenant representative meetings they currently hold with the BII, UK Hospitality and FLVA as well as the regulated pub company code compliance officers, something which was offered by the previous PCA to the Forum of Private Business our parent company. Now we have the Forum of British Pubs in place and we hope the current PCA will take up our offer to engage and include us in that group which we think would be beneficial to the whole sector.
We have spoken to several other campaigning and lobbying groups and have been working particularly closely with CAMRA on the issue of protecting pubs and ensuring they are viable and not in a position where a pub company or developer is trying to change their use and as ultimately lose the pub forever. CAMRA and the Forum of British Pubs are working together to get information into the hands of tenants and their communities so they can protect their pubs.
We are also in contact with every planning authority in the UK, making sure they are well informed and have the right information and tests in place to be able to make a well-informed decision if they are approached with a request for change of use. CAMRA has an excellent network on the ground and we will be able to spot pubs which are at risk and make sure they and the communities they serve receive practical support and help.
We are working with several small brewers helping them with their issues, particularly around beer duty. We have spoken to senior civil servants at the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) as well as HMRC with a view to holding a meeting to discuss these issues. We were consulted and fed back member views throughout the lockdown with BEIS and are continuing to do so as we move forward and I have two consultations regarding the sector moving forward as we move out of the EU, which we will be responding to next week.
On the campaigning front, it is sometimes difficult to tell the wider membership and supporters what we are doing as we are often consulted, but under Chatham House rules we have to keep these discussions confidential for a period of time. But members can rest assured that we have been involved in several consultations regarding the hospitality sector which we will share when we can. We did take part in the Scottish Tied Pubs Bill and we made a submission to that which has now gone public and can be found on the Scottish Parliament website.
I know that the Minister for Small Business Paul Scully would not mind me saying that we have been involved in several discussions with him, his team and I are in regular contact regarding Hospitality sector issues. I should also mention Esther McVey who as our local MP has been very supportive of the formation of the Forum of British Pubs and has been very helpful in putting us in touch with some key people.
Finally, where appropriate we do need the help and support of the press and media. We sent our briefing packs to all the relevant outlets and although we have only been around a short time our members’ voices have been heard in the Daily Mail, The Times and The Daily Express. We have also received some good coverage on BBC radio, and we had an excellent story on Wellington Pubs which made it onto the ITN news.
So, all in all, it has been a very busy, effective, and productive first few weeks working on behalf of our supporters and members. But we need to become bigger and better to make positive changes to the industry. So if you haven’t already joined us please do so or become a “Protect Your Pub” campaign supporter, which is completely free to do, on our website: www.forumofbritishpubs.com/protect-your-pub.
Help us to help you. The more members and supporters we have, the more voice we get and the more help we can give.