Monday, 14 February 2011

Public houses: restrictive covenants and the abuse of alcohol

CAMRA (the Campaign for Real Ale) reports that pubs minister Bob Neill to begin a public consultation into banning restrictive covenants. The consultation, initiated by the Department of Communities & Local Government, follows applications under the Sustainable Communities Act by three local authorities – Darlington, Newcastle Upon Tyne and Rydedale – to take action on restrictive covenants after lobbying from local CAMRA branches.

The consultation will focus on the impact the covenants have on pubs and their communities. But the Campaign says branches and members must not assume that the end of restrictive covenants, which stop up-for-sale pubs being bought and used as a public house, is a done deal. Bob Neill said communities had, for too long, felt shut out when rules prevent a building being bought by local people and used again as a public house or community club. “I want to stop that and put local people in charge,” he said.

Supermarket pricing

CAMRA is angry that the coalition government has fudged election promises made by both Conservatives and Liberal Democrats to stop supermarkets selling booze at pocket-money prices. CAMRA says that the government’s ban on the sale of alcohol at below the cost of excise duty and VAT (47p a pint) will have no impact on what supermarkets charge. CAMRA’s chief executive Mike Benner said the ban will have a “negligible impact as supermarkets sell only a tiny proportion of beer at below these levels”.

The Campaign was backed by the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers’ chief executive Nick Bish who said the ban would make no difference to pocketmoney prices on the high street nor the irresponsible retailing practices of Britain’s supermarkets.

As I have often posted, the coalition government, SNP in Scotland, CAMRA and the ALMR miss the point. The troubles caused by alcohol result from its too wide availability, not from its cost. Restricting the sale of wines, beers and spirits to specialist outlets would not only reduce alcoholism and some anti-social behaviour, but also reinvigorate local pubs up and down the country. It is gratifying to know that Neath Port Talbot's Social Care Scrutiny Committee independently came to very much the same conclusion in its special report published last year.

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