Sunday, 5 December 2010

And so this is Christmas ...

... and what have you done?

A question that many of us will be asking our "political masters" or the Coalitionistas as I like to call them.

So what has this unholy union of Liberals and Tories done for the much-beleaguered UK pub trade in their first six months in office?

Cast your mind back to the "bonfire of the quangoes" - in their unrelenting pursuit of deficit reduction (at all costs save those of their respective vested interests) - the axe was wielded on a couple of hospitality industry bodies - the Alcohol Education Research Council (AERC) and the Security Industry Authority (SIA).

The AERC’s main aims are to: “Generate and disseminate research based evidence to inform and influence policy and practice” and “to develop the capacity of people and organisations to address alcohol issues.”
Both worthy aims and the AERC has, during the last five years, concentrated on family interventions, community action programmes and screening plus brief interventions for alcohol misuse. They are a repository of a vast library of reports and research into the effects of alcohol that both government and industry readily draw upon.
The Coalition’s response to this sterling work? Cut its funding and turn it into a charitable trust – and we know how well charities do during hard times – especially if their not the cuddly / furry types. Good call Mssrs Clegg and Cameron; at least they’ll be able to use dogma and prejudice to determine their alcohol harm reduction policy without the inconvenience of a publicly funded body calling them to account. After all the AERC will just be another bleeding heart charity soon!
This as they do significant U-turns on combating below cost sales of alcohol by the off-trade (most notably the big supermarkets) which are widely accepted to be a major factor in alcohol abuse (from the health lobby to the police); at the same time the government has allowed back-door powers to ban such innocuous promotions such as pub loyalty cards. Could it be that the pub industry doesn’t contribute as much to party coffers as the supermarkets?
Talk about schizophrenic … this as we are all about to suffer an increase in VAT to 20% in the New Year. The supermarkets will undoubtedly swallow up the VAT increase and continue their irresponsible “deep discounting” whilst pubs won’t be in a position to do the same and their prices will inevitably have to rise. I would contend that this will drive more consumers from the safe and supervised environments of pubs into unregulated homes and street corners and the ensuing increase in anti-social behaviour will still be blamed on pubs!
Then there is the SIA – set up to regulate the security industry (including door-supervisors or “bouncers” as they are so charmingly referred to at times) when the industry was unable to “self-regulate” and was rife with thugs and criminals. The SIA has had two main duties: “The compulsory licensing of individuals undertaking certain designated activities” and “To manage the voluntary Approved Contractor Scheme”
These duties have been admirably fulfilled by the SIA since its inception in following the enactment of the Private Security Industry Act 2001. Is this wholly necessary public body to be applauded and receive continued public funding – no of course it’s not! No, the industry is to return to “self-regulation” after the Olympics in 2012 (we’ll need a credible vetting service for the industry for this international event) – shame we didn’t get the World Cup, then it might have survived until 2018! 
I could go on about the Coalitionistas much vaunted review and reform of the licensing regime, their U-turn on live music provision in pubs, the disproportionate burden their pension reforms will have on small businesses such as independent pubs … but I probably lost you way back.
If I didn’t lose you then think on about what sort of society you want to live in, because one without pubs in all their myriad incarnations will be much the poorer for their absence.
Anyway – Bah! Humbug! And All That To You All!

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