The British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA) has called on Southwark and Redbridge councils to reconsider their proposals to introduce Late-Night Levies (LNL) as they would be damaging for their local pubs. Responding to recent consultations on LNLs in both Southwark and Redbridge, the BBPA has outlined its opposition to LNLs, arguing that they are in effect a direct and punitive tax on local businesses like pubs that are already disproportionately burdened with a range of taxes, business rates and other overheads. The beer and pub sector alone already pays £58.6m in tax in Southwark and £16.5m in tax in Redbridge. The BBPA also believes that LNLs do not work effectively in addressing local late-night alcohol-related issues. This is reflective of a House of Lords committee report on the Licensing Act 2003, which assessed LNLs, finding that they “failed to achieve [their] objectives and should be abolished.” Additionally, the BBPA has also noted that many local authorities and police forces have acknowledged that alcohol-related issues are not caused by the majority of licensed premises, especially pubs offering late-night entertainment in a well-managed and responsible environment. The BBPA has therefore argued that there are far more effective local partnership models that can be used to address late-night alcohol-related issues, without damaging local businesses. For example, the use of Business Improvement Districts (BID) that enable local businesses to lead in the management of their night-time economy. Beyond this, there are a range of partnership working schemes already in place which the BBPA and wider pub sector fully support including Pubwatch, Best Bar None and Street Pastors. Brigid Simmonds, Chief Executive of the British Beer & Pub Association, comments: “Introducing a Late-Night Levy is a backward step for any local authority. The current Late-Night Levy framework does not work effectively in addressing local late-night alcohol-related issues. It is a tax and unfair to well-run and responsible businesses such as pubs – many of which are SMEs already struggling to get by. “A Late-Night Levy will be a nail in the coffin for some community pubs. When business rates are the basis for the calculation, premises like pubs will pay a disproportionate share. Both Southwark and Redbridge should look at working in partnership with their late-night sector, not taxing them out of existence."  House of Lords Select Committee on the Licensing Act 2003 (2017), The Licensing Act 2003: post-legislative scrutiny
The British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA) has called on the Government and devolved administrations to work towards a fair, industry-led and effective UK-wide Deposit Return Scheme (DRS) that excludes glass - a view widely shared across the drinks industry. The BBPA has also argued that busy pubs operating in a ‘closed loop’ environment where drinks are consumed on the premises should not be burdened with having to charge and refund deposits to customers. This is because many are small premises and must be exempt from being return points. This would be in line with proposals for Scotland. For a DRS to be successful, the BBPA believes that it must align with other Government ambitions to tackle packaging waste, including proposals to improve the consistency of kerbside recycling and reforms of the existing Producer Packaging Responsibility Regulations. The BBPA has outlined these concerns separately in response to DEFRA consultations on Producer Responsibility and consistency of kerbside recycling. The BBPA remains firmly of the view that there should be one UK wide DRS system. Whilst the BBPA are committed to working with the Scottish Government on their proposals, the requirement for separate stock keeping units (SKUs) under a DRS operating only in Scotland and the proposed inclusion of glass will add significant costs, complexity and challenges for consumers and businesses alike in both Scotland and the rest of the UK. The BBPA is therefore calling for more analysis to understand the risks and benefits of having two separate schemes. Brigid Simmonds, Chief Executive of the British Beer & Pub Association, comments: “The BBPA believes a UK-aligned DRS scheme for single use materials used for on-the-go packaging remains the optimal solution. We certainly do not believe that the additional costs and challenges with including glass can be justified. “We have however, welcomed the decision in Scotland that pubs will be able to choose whether to charge a deposit, or whether to work within a ‘closed loop system’ with producers. The BBPA is committed to working with Government on a system which works for the brewing and pub sector, but it is essential that we are engaged and involved in detailed plans to make a system work before decisions are finalised.”
A version of this blog originally appeared in Propel Hospitality. I was asked to speak at an Inside Government conference this week on the next steps to revitalise the UK’s high streets while sharing best practice from four years of being a judge at the Great British High Street competition. In a week of so many policy announcements relating to the high street, the timing was perfect. Most significant of all, perhaps, was the government’s response to the Housing, Communities and Local Government Select Committee inquiry into high streets and town centres, which looked at alternatives to business rates. Inevitably the government’s response was robust, citing its warmly welcomed one-third reduction in business rates for businesses with a rental value of less than £51,000, worth £60m to the pub trade alone, while dismissing calls for alternative taxes to business rates to boost the high street. As ever, the British Beer & Pub Association continues to make the case for government to change the business rates system to support our high streets and especially pubs, which pay 2.8% of the total business rates bill yet equate for only 0.5% of turnover. That doesn’t mean, however, there isn’t other government support that pubs and the wider hospitality sector can make use of and I think we can agree it’s important to use all the help we can get. Last year, for example, the government appointed Sir John Timpson to chair an expert panel on the Great British high street. The panel’s report identified the importance of local leadership to boost high streets because no two towns are the same, they each have their own unique culture and heritage. As a result, the government is setting up a High Street Task Force with £9m of funding. Once up and running the task force will be a place for local leaders across the UK to access highly valuable support and guidance to regenerate their high streets and town centres. Furthermore, the chancellor’s decision to give £675m in funding for high streets in last year’s Budget was a huge boost. That funding will help improve infrastructure and access to our high streets, which in turn will see investment in them grow. Expressions of interest for phase one of the funding attracted 300 bids. It’s worth the pub and hospitality sectors seeing how they can become involved with such schemes. Local government is also a great source of support for our high streets and town centres, particularly where councils have the right skills and are prepared to invest. At the Inside Government conference, former councillor Graham Galpin spoke about Ashford Council’s £50m regeneration investment, which used data-driven insights to smarten Ashford’s high street and events and interactive experiences to drive footfall. The council is also developing a cinema complex and bought and refurbished a covered market it now offers to startups at low rents. This locally driven regeneration reiterates what I learned from the Great British High Street, where winners such as Bishops Waltham and Cowbridge exemplified how important local leadership is for high street and town centre regeneration. Of course the hospitality sector also has a key role to play in the regeneration of high streets. We should all do our bit to engage in schemes taking place across the country, particularly pubs, which sit at the heart of their communities and, in many cases, are the last public space on the high street. Are your managers or lessees looking to see how they can help? Is your local high street vibrant or could your community do more? Has it applied for the multitude of government funding available? We can all sit back, criticise public policy and find reasons why our high streets are failing, namely by blaming the government – but we can also play a part in helping our high streets. At the end of the day, local leadership is the key to local success.