£150m community pubs pot welcomed by campaigners 'but…

£150m community pubs pot welcomed by campaigners 'but more action needed'

PUB regulars are set to be given the financial backing to save their beloved struggling locals in today’s Budget with the announcement of a new £150 million Community Ownership Fund.

This afternoon the Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak will lay out the Government’s spending plans for the next 12 months, in what is expected to again by a Covid-19 heavy announcement.

Amongst the wider plans to support businesses through the coming months and raise public funds – on which you can read a full preview on page 23 – is plans to allow communities to pull together to save their beloved local pubs.

The proposal has been welcomed in principal by local pub campaigners, but they have called for more detail on the plan and for steps to be put in place to allow community groups a fair go at buying pubs alongside other bidders.

Ahead of today’s Budget, the Treasury revealed that a new £150 million Community Ownership Fund to allow pub goers to bid for up to £250,000 to save their favourite local.

The fund, due to open for applications in the summer, is designed to help community groups to take over struggling pubs or other community assets in their area in order to keep them going.

Peter Down, chair of the Bradford branch of the Campaign for Real Ale, said the plan will help the industry but further information and help is needed.

He said: “The Community Ownership Fund is welcome news and it will certainly help the pub industry in general.

“However, more information is required to find out how much benefit it will actually provide.

“In particular, is the money a grant or a loan, and what are the requirements for a community to claim the funding?

“Do they have to raise a minimum amount themselves? At the moment it’s not clear so there’s a need for more detail which we will hopefully get today in the Budget.

“It also depends on the willingness of pub owners to sell. Many are now owned by pub chains and if they’re selling it’s to the highest bidder and more often than not, that’s not as a pub.

“They’re often sold off for housing, as shops or as nurseries.”

Mr Down cited the cases of the King’s Arms in Heaton and Sun Inn in Cottingley, where community efforts to save the pubs lost out to housing developers, and the recent case of the Hermit Inn in Burley Woodhead, set for the same fate.

“In some of the deals the community don’t even get a look in. They were all sold before the community even had chance to put a bid in.

“The Hermit is the only pub in the village and it’s already a done deal to become housing; it’s a sad state of affairs.

“More needs to be done to help communities save their pubs, and not just this financial incentive,” Mr Down added.