By Rosie Duffield MP
A few weeks ago, I visited the Prince Albert in Whitstable which has recently reopened after a £300,000 refurbishment paid for by Heineken. It was fantastic to see the re-opening of a truly local pub, serving residents across Whitstable. However, too often pubs have been left struggling, with many that serve small communities being put at risk of closure.
Just a few months ago, we saw the closure of the Two Doves in Nunnery Fields, which may be converted into houses. The pub sector supports 900,000 jobs, generates £23 billion in economic value and provides £13 billion in tax revenues. In addition, 30 million adults visit the pub every month. As a result, it is clear we urgently need a proper strategy to see an end to the widespread closure of pubs so that these key community assets are maintained.
One of the most common emails my office receives is calling for further action regarding pubs. At the 2018 Budget the Chancellor confirmed that duty rates on beer, cider and spirits will remain frozen, an announcement which has been welcomed by many bodies and individuals in the pub sector, including the Campaign for Real Ale and Long Live the Local. However, it is clear that more needs to be done because pubs are places where both our cultural industry develops and where our communities come together. In the Spring of this year, the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee published a report on live music, detailing the extent to which the pub industry supports the development of this. Yet, with the looming threat to the pub industry, this key cultural output is also at risk.
I want to see the creation of a national review of local pubs to examine the causes for their decline, as well as establishing a joint task force that will consider their future sustainability. In so many villages across both the constituency and the country, pubs supplement the lack of community space.
In Woolage Green, for example, the Two Sawyers pub acts as a polling station for the surrounding villages in the absence of another appropriate space. Putting these assets at risk would threaten community cohesion. With the coronation of a new Prime Minister, I hope that this government takes the views of the pub industry seriously. Communities need to be given more power to protect assets, such as pubs, post offices, pharmacies, high street banks and independent shops. However, this requires a proper understanding of why so many pubs are closing down across the country. Let’s take the pub industry seriously and see it for the key community asset it is.