Government must give pubs which serve as the beating hearts of their communities greater support with tax rebates to safeguard the nation’s locals as vital social lifelines, a report from the think-tank Localis has urged.
In a report issued in the last few days entitled ‘Inn-Valuable: unlocking the socio-economic potential of our nation’s pubs’, Localis also argued that a minister for pubs role be reinstated to join up help for the country’s pubs sector – which cumulatively supports 936,000 jobs, generates £28bn in GVA to the economy and delivers £15bn in tax revenues to the Exchequer annually.
According to polling undertaken by YouGov for the report, 75 percent 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 percent) of British adults agreed they are, with just 14 percent feeling that they are not.
Polling carried out for the report showed 68 percent of British adults felt that pubs help combat loneliness in their local area. Among pro-community activities supported by local pubs, nearly half (44%) of people were aware of pub events that bring the community together, a quarter (25%) knew of local pubs that supported charitable causes and 17 percent knew of local pubs that supported vulnerable people in their area.
The research identified from case studies taken pubs across the country some dominant themes on how the sector supports local people and communities, namely by:
- combatting isolation
- supporting local causes
- reflecting local culture
- bringing local business together
- supporting community through generations.
Pollsters also found that among social uses of pubs in the last three months, more than half of the population (51%) had met a friend in one, while nearly two-in-five (37%) of people had visited the pub to meet up with family, a quarter (25%) had enjoyed Sunday lunch in one and 10% of the public had attended a pub-held birthday party in that timespan. In addition, six percent of the public had used pubs for dating purposes and 13% watched a sporting event.
A key recommendation of the report calls for the re-establishment of a Minister for Pubs post to co-ordinate a cross-government taskforce responsible for long-term strategy for the British pubs sector and to lead on help with tax and regulation, alongside an emergency fund for energy bill support.
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 a mere £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.”
Emma McClarkin, chief executive of the British Beer and Pub Association, 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.”
Becky Barnett who runs The Lamb Inn in Swadlincote, which features in the report, said: “We support our local 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.”
Pub is The Hub chief executive, John Longden, said: “Pubs and publicans are the heroes at the heart of community life that provide essential local services and activities that create social value.
“They are a lifeline for many rural areas providing vital local services and activities such as village stores, allotments and community cafes as well as offering a safe space to tackle the major societal issue of loneliness.
“Pub is The Hub now estimates 1,000 more pubs and local areas could benefit from services if they can be directly supported in the future to diversify.”