Licensed hospitality can play a key role in regeneration. Areas with a diverse, vibrant range of pub and restaurant businesses increase dwell time and spend. We want this to happen everywhere but are hampered by constraints: use classes, restrictive lease terms and inaccurately-set rents – which push up rateable values – are causing distortions in the market, holding back growth.
The High Street Forum should facilitate a discussion between landlord, lessee, regulators and political audiences to review the Business Leasing Code 2007, of which there is limited awareness and ineffective application and which is inadequate in areas such as rent reviews. Requiring only mid-quartile analysis to be used when setting comparables would address concerns about rents and rates. Finally, we would like to work with RICS to review the organisation’s internal rules regarding conflicts of interest and the promotion of transparency as well as reviewing redress mechanisms.
Embed economic growth in local decision-making
Pubs and bars face conflicting pressures at a local level which are a barrier to investment. Positive planning frameworks at a national level have not translated into planning practice at a local level. Current licensing decisions take no account of pubs’ and bars’ active participation in local economic partnership and best practice schemes or the costs of compliance.
The requirement for regulators to have regard to economic growth should be extended to cover licensing and planning matters. We support the proposal from the Local Government Association for there to be an economic licensing objective. We would also like to see the Department of Business and Department of Communities and Local Government provide guidance to foster a common approach to delivery by the Local Economic Partnerships.
Abolish NICs for under-25s
Our sector provides the first taste of work for many young people, generating 1 in 6 of all new jobs among 18-24 year-olds. Last year alone, pubs and bars generated 37,000 new jobs – 7% of all net new jobs in the UK – with over 80% of them for 18-24 year olds. However, operators need the flexibility to invest in young people and they don’t have that under the overly complex and burdensome tax and employment regime.
PAYE, employer national insurance contributions and the overall business tax environment all need to be looked at as well as overall wage costs. The Employment Allowance and scrapping of NICs for under-21s has provided a real boost to employment within our sector and is allowing us to invest continuously in in-work training and boost basic wages. This approach should be extended to under-25s and a larger rebate offered to smaller employers.