Trying hard to protect the ‘local’

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UNION chiefs say that the number of pubs closing in Wigan is due to the sky high rents charged by pub landlords.

Over the past few years, dozens of pubs across the borough have stopped trading, including Bridge 63 in Haigh, the Dog and Partridge in Standish and the Oak Tree Root in Atherton to name but three.

The GMB say a pint of lager is 80p higher and beer 65p more expensive than justified by rises in inflation and tax changes since 1987, with “sky high” rents charged by landlords to blame, according to a study by the IPPR think tank.

The GMB union also say that in a growing number of cases, property companies were replacing brewers as owners of pubs, with many locals being priced out of the market.

Between 1991 and 2000 the average price of a pint of lager increased by 46 per cent, compared with a 27 per cent rise in inflation, with a similar jump in price between 2000 and 2010, said the union.

Chairman of Wigan Council’s Licensing Committee, Coun Paul Prescott (pictured above), says: “We recognise that nationally the pub trade has been hit hard in recent years and there has been an increase in the number of public houses that have closed their doors.

“Wigan is no exception to this and it is clear that the difficult economic times we are facing have had an impact.

“With people having less disposable income and the cost of living rising, it is easy to see how this may have a knock-on effect in terms of falling trade for licensees.

“The comparatively lower prices for alcohol at supermarkets and off-licences may also mean that more people are choosing to drink at home. As a rule it seems that those pubs that have diversified their offer, for example by offering food, music and other events have fared better.

“The council and its partners are aware of how important the licensed trade is to the borough’s economy and indeed to community life in our borough.

“Our town centre management teams are working closely with the licensed trade to encourage people to come into the town centre in the evening.

“And whilst we are bound to ensure a balance between a successful night-time economy and the wider needs of the community in terms of the potential health and social problems associated with alcohol, we are doing all we can to create the right environment in which the licensed trade can not only weather the storm, but flourish.”

National officer Paul Maloney said: “The financial engineering that led to local pubs being owned by bondholders based in offshore tax havens charging sky high rents to tied tenants was organised by the City.

“It mirrors what happened at Southern Cross care homes.

“It is a myth that the City promotes competition and free markets.

“The interests of the tied tenants as directed workers currently appear too disparate for them to unite to take lawful action to stop the decline in the pub trade as the ongoing recession in consumer spending makes things worse for them.”