CAMRA HQ failing publicans & pubs by ignoring failure of Pubs Code and Pubs Code Adjudicator

CAMRA headquarters have badly failed licensees of the large pubcos and communities who rely on these pubs by ignoring the clear failure of Pubs Code and the conflicted and compromised Pubs Code Adjudicator, Paul Newby. The criticism has come from leading licensee campaigners who were part of the Fair Deal for Your Local Steering Group and Top 40 CAMRA campaigner & 3 times CAMRA national award winner Greg Mulholland MP, who also chairs the British Pub Confederation and founded the Parliamentary Save the Pub Group.

CAMRA HQ, who do not represent licensees, dropped the issue of pubco reform like a hot stone as soon as the legislation was passed and have failed to monitor the implementation of the Pubs Code, despite being so keen to take credit for the pub sector coalition that achieved the historic success of legislation on this. This is in stark contrast to CAMRA branches who continue to highlight bad behaviour and closures by the large pubcos and the inaction of the conflicted Adjudicator.

Crucially, CAMRA HQ have been silent on the clear conflict of interest of the Pubs Code Adjudicator, Paul Newby and his refusal to adjudicate and uphold the Pubs Code. Mr Newby retains shares in, and has outstanding loans with, his former employers Fleurets who are reliant on the regulated pubcos for at least a quarter of their income!

As was revealed in a recent British Pub Confederation report and a debate in the House of Commons, Paul Newby is failing to adjudicate on key issues and is failing to tackle and stop the ways pubcos are flouting and thwarting the Pubs Code. Even the Minister responsible, Margot James MP, has admitted that, “there have clearly been instances in which the code has been flouted”[1]. Even then, CAMRA HQ have remained silent on this and the way Paul Newby is failing licensees and failing in his important statutory role.

CAMRA HQ were strongly criticised for their self-congratulation over the key legislative vote in 2014, with highly respected beer writer Pete Brown saying “I find it disingenuous that [CAMRA] were so quick to take all the credit”. CAMRA HQ staff also pulled an award nomination that they had made for themselves after it was pointed out to the organisers that the Fair Deal for Your Local campaign was carried out by a coalition and that it wasn’t just CAMRA’s work, nor was it led by CAMRA. The Fair Deal for Your Local campaign went on to be highly commended in another set of awards once a proper and honest nomination was made, by the rest of the Fair Deal coalition.

Mark Dodds, founder member of the Fair Pint Campaign, the original group set up to campaign for pubco reform, said:

“CAMRA HQ’s refusal to take a stand on pubco reform is damaging communities and the social well-being of every part of Britain – nowhere, no community anywhere, is free of the blight of the pubco hegemony. Newspapers, television and government all listen to CAMRA, yet since 2014 CAMRA HQ has been silent on the fate of pubs in the hands of tied pubcos.

“CAMRA HQ’s refusal to be drawn into stating a position on pubco reform and most recently the appointment of a totally compromised Pubs Code Adjudicator is tantamount to support for a Tied Pubco Hegemony that has been asset stripping Britain of OUR pubs on an industrial scale. CAMRA HQ’s position is fundamentally deleterious to the health of the British pub sector. Thousands of communities have been damaged permanently by their local pub closing forever. Time, history, will prove that the true costs of pub closures to the UK’s fundamental social fabric are so costly as to be incalculable in conventional financial terms.

“Until November 2014 CAMRA was a key member of the Fair Deal For Your Local campaign coalition that was instrumental to bringing the Pubs Code into law. Then, while celebrating ‘our job is done’ with another two years’ government imposed ‘consultation’ on the Code ahead, CAMRA dropped pubco reform like a hot potato – we do not know why – it was just as if CAMRA were a carpenter who’d left a door hanging with only one hinge in place. 

“Since 2014 CAMRA HQ’s absence of a position on pubco reform has in effect endorsed pubcos’ continued asset stripping of British pubs everywhere and with the appointment of a director of the pubcos’ estate agent of choice- Paul Newby – as Pubs Code Adjudicator CAMRA HQ’s silence has pretty much rubber stamped the hiring of a very obviously conflicted Adjudicator to police abuse of the tied pub sector.

“CAMRA HQ’s negligence in the matter is quite frankly unbelievable. All over Britain at regional and local level, hundreds of well informed CAMRA members, particularly local Pub Protection Officers, while remaining loyal to CAMRA’s founding ethos, are dismayed, disappointed and distressed by what they regard unequivocally to be HQ’s negligence towards pubs’ protection. Internally, they are highly critical of CAMRA HQ’s refusal to get down and dirty where they need to be on attacking the pubcos’ shockingly delinquent behaviour toward OUR national pub stock, and the thousands of tenants whose lives they ruin while extracting all the profit from the supply chain.

Top 40 CAMRA campaigner and 3 times national CAMRA award winner Greg Mulholland MP said:

“Over the last year, CAMRA’s leadership have badly let down publicans and pubs by dropping pubco reform like a stone, turning their back on tied licensees and licensees’ groups and failing to scrutinise whether the new Pubs Code is working, which it isn’t as the pubcos are flouting and thwarting it. Above all, the fact that CAMRA HQ has been silent on the clearly conflicted and compromised Pubs Code Adjudicator and his refusal to uphold the Pubs Code is shameful. Pubco licensees and supporters of the Fair Deal for Your Local campaign feel betrayed by CAMRA’s current leadership.”

“CAMRA members and branches and CAMRA HQ, when led by Mike Benner, did an excellent job lobbying their MPs to support the Fair Deal for Your Local campaign. Now those members are also being badly let down by CAMRA HQ’s failure to see the job through on pubco reform and to sit on the fence over the disastrous and conflicted Paul Newby. Pubs, publicans and CAMRA members deserve better and it is time that CAMRA’s leadership and staff actually did something to help get the Pubs Code working as intended and this includes opposing Paul Newby who is refusing to do the job he was appointed to do and is undermining the Pubs Code we all, CAMRA included, fought so hard for.

“It is time that CAMRA’s leadership and HQ staff worked with licensees’ groups instead of attending pubco roadshows. Licensees and their representatives will tell them what is happening with Code cases and if CAMRA’s leadership don’t listen and engage with this, then their claims to really support reform and the all-important Market Rent Only option will ring very hollow.”

Chris Wright of the Pubs Advisory Service, the tenant support organisation currently dealing with many of the live Pubs Code cases said:

“Why are CAMRA HQ unwilling to offer those at the coal face any tangible support to get the code working as it should? They were quick enough to take the ‘win’ back in 2014 and so they should step up and take some responsibility to help sort the mess it’s in now – just where is the legacy from the campaign they championed?

“Given that towards the end of the Fair Deal for Your Local campaign CAMRA HQ withheld information on our supporters from their campaigning partners, it doesn’t surprise us that they are indifferent to the outcome of the Pubs Code for those tenants using it”.

[1] Hansard, 26/01/2017:


3 thoughts on “CAMRA HQ failing publicans & pubs by ignoring failure of Pubs Code and Pubs Code Adjudicator

  1. ‘Culled’ from notes – my post to Discourse today. I forgot to include one contribution: one wag last night suggested your goodself as the ideal (?) candidate to succeed Tim Page.

    A recent interview with Tim – not the beginning of the end but “the end of the beginning” … and no spike in resignations … 2

    I only came across him once, as far as I recall, at one of the first consultation meetings way back now in Southwark, when he was pretty effective in dealing with, and answering, questions, including some rather more ad hominem ones (that were more statements of considerable opposition or criticism).

    And as an oblique comment, with membership then c. 177,000, and now 191,000, that’s certainly an achievement to be recognised – by the team as a whole.

    Reflecting also on the discussions at last night’s London regional meeting, mostly on the decisions at the AGM and conference, with around 40 or so members present. Only one of which admitted to being under 30, and the vast majority were all white, male and ageing (save for four females) …

    Tim’s resignation was certainly news that was thrown into the melting pot. And provoked a number of contributions as the big (elephant in the room was the repeated and rather hackneyed phrase) matter for the night was essentially one that had not featured prominently for some years. At least not with CAMRA on his watch. His recent piece in the summer edition of Wetherspoons magazine does mention the continuing loss of pubs (19 a week), the continuing decline in people going to the pub, and that a pint of beer is increasingly unaffordable. And that isn’t the pub or the brewers’ fault, and the factors pushing prices up (a perfect storm of, apparently) aren’t within their control.

    A significant omission from that maelstrom is our elephant. Even at this late date (and it’s likely that the copy deadline was well before the AGM etc.,), that does seem remarkable.

    While tax of all descriptions are a constant enemy (and brewers have been complaining about excessive taxation since beer or malt was first taxed!) the real enemy are the pubcos, indeed all that control the main tenanted or leased estates, some perhaps more benevolently than others. And it surely is now abundantly clear that the high hopes of the Pub Code effect over three years ago are just not being realised – either in terms of a better if not fair deal for tenants or a fair deal, and price, on yer pint.

    With the attempted judicial review of the Pub Code Adjudicator by EI Group et al., is on a relatively narrow matter, should CAMRA seek to be an interested party and consider being represented? And should the block exemption of the beer tie be re-examined, as being contrary to the public interest, as well as anti-competitive? While no one owner can (probably) be said to exercise significant market power, at the very least the main players seem to be part of a complex oligopoly. Speaking as a former corporate competition policy adviser (and lobbyist), this is an area that will require resources financial and otherwise, as will any serious move into quality and testing.

    And that leads on to another area or theme – that of membership and diversity. Clearly it would appear – with the breakdown revealed through the revitalisation project – that the anecdotal domination by white ageing males is confirmed. With a few asides about Wetherspoons members, how and who we seek to recruit into membership, and how we pitch the appeal, is going to be key … and while we can’t determine who wants to become a member, and then be drawn into active membership (and that is a major challenge and problem for pretty well all membership organisations), how we are perceived is the biggest turn off. In my book any member going to the pub and buying a pint of beer is an active one!

    And a quick last comment, as the chief executive stands down – no, not @timpage but Peter Vicary-Smith of the Consumers Association, leaving in September after 14 years. The leading consumer champion membership organisation, with the majority of members basically magazine subscribers’ and getting some major benefits from the testing and campaigning. They provide the financial and muscle power for the work to be done – turnover of Which? has doubled, and the amount spent on (largely successful, indeed very successful) campaigns quadrupled over those 14 years.

    Whether or not they are Wetherspoons members, we can’t do without ’em.


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