Save Our Pubs

Pub Closures

We are not unaware that the closure of the Old Spotted Dog is part of a wider malaise – in setting up this campaign we have uncovered a number of remarkable and worrying facts and have come to some conclusions.

For a number of years now we have been seeing pub closures.

  • In the period 2008/12 nationally 4,500 pubs have closed.
  • In Newham since 1991 25% of pubs have closed.
  • In E7 in 1991 there were 20 pubs, 14 of which are now closed.

There was no consultation. No account was taken of local users, many of whom were older and less mobile. For many people, the local pub was a hugely important social hub.

Pubs at the heart of the community

Pubs have traditionally been at the heart of British communities.

We held social and political meetings there, and relaxed with colleagues and friends there afterwards; we dropped in after work, took our families for meals, played games; we enjoyed live music, quiz nights and, in recent years, came together to watch the big sporting events.

In pub halls we have held meetings, wedding receptions, birthday parties, funerals;we’ve run socials, dances, jazz clubs and folk clubs.

In their gardens we’ve spent sunny Sunday afternoons in the company of other parents, our children playing together where we could keep an eye on them.

We have relied on pubs to organise football clubs, darts matches, pool tournaments, trips to the seaside…

We need to understand some simple truths before it’s too late. Pubs are at the heart of our communities. Pubs are a vital part of our culture, just as necessary as shops and the post office. Pubs are dying and only our vigilance can save them.

Over-taxation

According to CAMRA, a European tax league table produced by CAMRA and The British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA) pubgoers in the UK pay the highest proportion of tax in Europe at 55p in every pint.

In Germany they pay 5p, in Spain 5p, Greece 15p, Italy 14p, France 7p.

The beer tax escalator, introduced by the last government in 2008, means that beer duty is increased by 2% above inflation every year.

CAMRA (Campaign for Real Ale) are running a campaign to stop this and have an e petition so please sign up at saveourpint.co.uk

Supermarkets and Speculators

Planning permission doesn’t have to be sought to change the usage of a pub, so there is no public consultation. We have seen a big increase in pubs turned into supermarkets in recent years as the big companies are fearful of building on large sites during the recession.

As well, the housing shortage and big money that can be made by property speculators, means pub owners hold out for prices resulting in them being sold for development. However, when planning permission is required it means a local campaign can be started to stop the development.

The new Sustainable Communities Act and the National Planning Policy Framework gives councils new responsibilities for councils to promote the retention and development of local services such as pubs. This has been used successfully in a number of campaigns.

What can be done?

Essential to this are local campaigns to put pressure on councils and to work with councils to develop sustainable community policies to stop these closures. There is a lot of work to be done nationally and on the political front to make it easier for pubs to survive. CAMRA are taking the lead and giving advice on this for local groups. There is a parliamentary ‘Save The Pubs’ group. Julian Huppert MP has introduced a bill in parliament, which has reached its second stage, to protect pubs from being demolished or having their use changed.

2 Responses

  1. Jan Boyce
    Jan Boyce / 9-16-2012 / ·

    I put this in the wrong place – I was replying to this message and put it on the main comment site! Sorry! I live and was born in West Ham, and used the Spotted Dog often – special occasions in the restaurant, end of term drinks in the garden, and just as a local. We lived in Stopford Road for a time, but have always been close enough to use it. I care deeply about the area and our history. I’ve also been part of the campaigns to save the Spotted Dog (have been for a couple of years now) and have recently joined this one. I want the Spotted Dog preserved – and restored, considering the state of it!. I worry slightly about linking the Spotted Dog to the general malaise of pub closures. My belief – and I may be wrong – is that a number of pub in Newham have closed because of the changing population in the area. There aren’t the industries here nowadays with a workforce who automatically go to the pubs close to the job or to the pubs at all. Other people who do work here often don’t live here, and not everyone who lives here will drink in a pub – so pubs are closing all over Newham. BUT the Spotted Dog is different – it’s an ancient inn that needs our protection to remain in existence as a building. I wonder whether there will ever be a pint pulled there again! But let’s not lose the building and the history attached to it – it’s far too important! And of course, I’m planning on coming to the public meeting!!

  2. roy wenborne
    roy wenborne / 10-14-2012 / ·

    The lead article referred to here was to highlight the importance of pubs to the community and touched on some of the reasons for pubs closing and what might be done to slow this process down if not stop it altogether. Clearly, this is a very complex issue with many reasons being put forward for the decline in pub profitability. Jan highlights two important factors, namely the loss of local manufacturing and population changes. However, these changes have taken place over a significant period of time and while no doubt have had an effect it doesn’t explain why so many pubs have closed relatively recently. As well, this is a national, not just a local issue. Others have mentioned the ban on smoking in pubs and even the alternative use of drugs which affects numbers of young people. Other structural changes have occured affecting the ownership and control of pubs since the breweries were obliged to sell off a proportion of their outlets. There is much more choice in pubs now and we have seen the growth of pub companies. Some of these have transformed pubs into profitable and successful businesses, others it seems have only short term objectives and have managers who are not particularly interested in their pub. These are the ones where they don’t have enough staff, they don’t have the beers on pump or can’t be bothered to change the barrel, or as I have seen in a pub not to far from Wanstead flats where people have waited over an hour for their meal to arrive. Not surprising then that they lose trade. At least when the pubs were tied to breweries they had a vested interest in keeping them open. Now its too easy to let a pub die and then sell it on for blocks of flats. And it is not just non-profitable pubs that are affected as we hear of going profitable concerns sold off for development. Pub companies are now property speculators.
    In the autumn issue of Wetherspoon News, (pick one up in the Hudson Bay), Tim Martin tackles what he sees as the key issues of competition from supermarkets who are able to cross subsidise their beer from their food sales and taxation. Pubs have lost 50% of their beer sales to supermarkets in the last 30yrs. Tim says “The real issue is tax. Not only do supermarkets pay no VAT to speak of in respect of food sales, they also pay a lot less cash per pint than pubs because of their low prices. Indeed, the competitive position of pubs has been further eroded by the increase in VAT to 20% recently, and the real structural decline in the on-trade can be traced back to the doubling of VAT by the government in about 1980…It is impossible to compete against supermarkets in the long term unless pubs have tax parity.”
    Roy

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