Pubs need support to maintain vital community role
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A new think tank report has called on government to give pubs greater support if these vital social lifelines are to be safeguarded.
Inn-Valuable: unlocking the socio-economic potential of our nation’s pubs, from Localis calls for a government minister to be responsible for pubs.
According to polling undertaken by YouGov for the report, 75 per cent of people felt the impact of pubs to community life to be positive. When asked if pubs are important in bringing people together, more than four-in-five (81 per cent) of British adults agreed they are, with just 14 per cent feeling that they are not.
Polling also showed 68 per cent of British adults felt pubs help combat loneliness in their area.
Pollsters found that among social uses of pubs in the last three months, more than half of the population (51 per cent) had met a friend in one, while nearly two-in-five (37 per cent) had visited a local to meet with family. A quarter (25 per cent) had enjoyed Sunday lunch in one, and 10 per cent had attended a pub-held birthday party.
In addition, six per cent had used pubs for dating and 13 per cent watched a sport.
The report authors also make the case for business rates rebates for those pubs which take on socially valuable roles such as foodbanks or in providing warm spaces for vulnerable people, with a call for a modest £4m cashpot to help 1,000 pubs to diversify at a cost of just £4,000 per pub.
Localis head of research Joe Fyans said: “Across Britain, pubs have consistently played a pivotal role in knitting communities together and promoting social cohesion.
“Pubs are the beating heart of many communities, playing multifaceted roles in local daily life. This is why the decline of pubs is cause for great concern. With each closure, both tangible and intangible voids are left behind.
“The lessons are clear: pubs, in all their forms and across all locations, remain integral to British social cohesion as hubs of activity, community, and social capital.
“This makes their presence all the more crucial as community safety nets and beacons of light, offering a lifeline hope for many people looking for a real sense of local belonging.”
CAMRA Chairman Nik Antona said: “Pubs, and social clubs, are the cornerstone of communities across the UK, and while the findings of this report will not be a surprise to pub-goers or licensees, they serve as a vital reminder to the Government of both the social and economic value of pubs as we look towards the Autumn Statement.
"Licensees, brewers, and cider makers face an uncertain economic future as they don’t know what their business rates or energy bills will look like in the next year. The Chancellor can start helping through the Autumn Statement by extending support schemes and getting rid of the red tape preventing licensees from selling draught beer and cider for consumers to take away and enjoy at home.
“The Government must also show their commitment to the licensed trade by re-appointing a Pubs Minister – something that has been lacking from the Ministerial roster for a few years now and is rightly highlighted in this report.”
British Beer and Pub Association chief executive Emma McClarkin said: “The stories highlighted in this report truly are just a snapshot of the hugely positive impact pubs have in communities across the country every single day.
“There are few businesses that can say they add both social and economic value and pubs are delivering that value in neighbourhoods from Lanarkshire to Liskeard, and everywhere in between.
“Pubs provide solace to people in tough times and a place to celebrate in others and to lose them would have a serious impact on people’s lives.
“With closures continuing to rise and pubs under threat from further duty and business rates cost hikes we hope the government will seriously consider the proposals put forward by this report so the foundations can be laid to help pubs continue to do this brilliant work in their communities long into the future.”
For Becky Barnett, being a licensee is about so much more than just pulling pints at the Lamb Inn – her pub in Newhall, Swadlincote (pictured) – it's also about helping people.
Barnett, who features in the report, said: “We support our community in a number of ways, including offering free food and drinks to people on Wednesday mornings.
“People can come into the pub, have a free hot meal, and in winter, sit by our log fire in comfy chairs, no questions asked.
“When times are tough, we want to be a place where people can come for help and local people have been incredibly grateful of us opening our doors at no cost.
“At the same time, we also face challenges with high energy bills and other rising costs so it’s a scary time for our business as well. We want to continue to provide a non-judgemental warm space for people but we’re facing our own difficulties as well.”