Saturday, July 11, 2009

Time for a mental step change

Yes. Of course Licensees need a national trade body. This is glaringly obvious and has been talked about for a long time - while all the existing trade bodies have not come close to meeting the demands there are for such a credible body.

The trade has been in a dreadful mess for a very long time, a mess obscured by pubco poodles pumping out propaganda about the financial successes and commercial agility of this 'robust' industry. An industry whose success has been measured solely on the impressive financial performance and returns that giant companies make out of milking pubs dry without anyone just opening their eyes, looking around, and seeing what's been staring them in the face for at least two decades: thousands of run down pubs struggling to stay open against perennial underinvestment, and general neglect by the giant companies as they hive off all responsibility for every aspect of running those pubs, save the removal of profits, to sole traders. There has been wholesale, albeit perhaps unwitting, collusion by all existing official trade bodies in maintaining a balance sheet view of the industry's success while completely ignoring the dreadful dilapidation all around.

Tuppen's 'out of the blue' offer of a hundred grand a year deliberately plays directly on this shocking state of affairs, and his suggestion that the LVA might take this up, was a shrewdly tossed curve ball designed to throw the gathering hounds off the scent of pubco blood. So far his ruse has worked.

It's obvious to anyone out of short trousers that no trade body can be independent if it's funded by pubcos and even discussing for a minute the possibility is naive in the extreme.

Andrew's observations are valid, even if evidence, perhaps, of a some diplomatic fence sitting, playing to all audiences in an effort to maintain balance when some straight forward down the line hard hitting opinion might make better reading. Nigel Wakefield's observations noted. The fact is there is no quick simple solution to putting right the consequences of decades of neglect of many of the industry's core needs. Pulling together and founding the directed, functioning, purposeful, dynamic and repsonsive trade body this industry needs is a monumental task dogged by exisiting bodies' partisan competing interests, suspicions and their need to fight each other for membership income.

Something new is needed. Something fresh. Something contemporarily relevant.

Making this body out of those existing is not impossible but making it happen means a lot of stark hard reckoning by the current players, a lot of power shifting and constructive cooperative collaboration; all things this industry is not famous for.

If the new must come out of the old, the logical natural base for such a development would hover around the FSB. FSB is independent of the various nefarious influences of the pub industry. It is a vital, active and broad visioned body that by default sees pubs as businesses not lifestyle choices. It would make sense if FSB created a tightly focused specialist wing representing licensees. FSB already does most of what the new body will have to do - and does it well. Adding to this infrastructure a FSB Licensed Trade Body might prove cost effective and self sustaining at the same time. FSB and BII could cross reference membership and promote each other's specialist services and strengths. Conceivably the smaller trade bodies could provide practical trade expertise needed and get something out of it too.

Or maybe something completely new IS needed. That is a big deal and will demand a substantial capital outlay to get it off the ground to a sustainable, running start.

That's where Tuppen's offer could be made to make sense: pubcos, on a proportional scale, pump prime the new body with £500K, maybe a million, annual donations each year for three years, into a ringfenced Trust they have no part in establishing, running, influencing. At three years the body MUST be self financing.

Is that a Fair Point?


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