Calls for creation of advice service to support Portsmouth publicans

Landlords Dave and Tina Dolling behind the bar at the Fort Cumberland Arms
Landlords Dave and Tina Dolling behind the bar at the Fort Cumberland Arms
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Campaigners want to take steps to give publicans greater support.

Steve Hastings, a Tory on Portsmouth City Council, wants a cross-party working group set up that gives prospective tenants advice before they decide to go into business.

A lot of it could be simple advice; even if it’s a case of a few councillors scanning a contract so people know what they’re signing up to and know what they are responsible for.

Portsmouth Tory councillor Steve Hastings

Cllr Hastings says he’s keen to not see landlords make mistakes and not run into trouble later on.

It comes after couple Dave and Tina Dolling walked out on The Fort Cumberland Arms in Eastney Road, Portsmouth, following a row over repairs with owner Chris Hunt. Both parties are at loggerheads over who was responsible for the upkeep of the building.

Cllr Hastings, who has campaigned on behalf of pubs such as The Fort Cumberland Arms, said: ‘It would be very good if we could perhaps offer some sort of advice service.

‘Clearly, a lot of people go into the pub trade without necessarily having the business skills they should have.

‘It would make a lot of sense. A lot of it could be simple advice, even if it’s a case of a few councillors scanning a contract so people know what they’re signing up to and know what they are responsible for.

‘Then it’s their choice if they want to go ahead with it.

‘It’s not just the pubs we are protecting; it’s the people. Publicans are people with jobs and they rely on it.

‘So if we can help them to get it right in the first place, they won’t go wrong later.’

But Martyn Constable, of the Campaign for Real Ale, says there is ‘no need’ for the council to get involved as help is already out there.

He said: ‘The pubs have already got the support of the The British Institute of Innkeeping.

‘When you want to become a pub landlord, you can become a member and get all the legal back-up you want. The council shouldn’t be thinking about taking that action – there are several professional bodies that already exist.

‘The council should instead be pointing landlords in the direction of the BII.

‘It’s true in any business – the good landlords know exactly what they are doing and the bad landlords don’t.

‘That’s true for shopkeepers and anything else.’

The government has put forward a Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Bill, which seeks to improve relations between pubs and their operators.

It is anticipated a new code of conduct will be created to help this happen.

MPs voted to include an amendment to allow pubs to buy beer on the open market and not be restricted to a list set by a big firm – a more expensive route.