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Warning on pub closures 'time bomb'
Real ale campaigners have called for urgent Government action to help prevent further pub closures, warning of a "ticking time bomb" in the industry.
The Campaign for Real Ale (Camra) delivered a 42,000-name petition to the Business Department and staged a rally outside Parliament to highlight continuing problems for pubs tied to large companies.
The Government held a consultation last year on reforming the so-called pubco model - under which licensees have to buy beer from one of the large firms - but Camra said it was crucial that an announcement is made in the next few weeks.
Colin Valentine, chairman of Camra, said: "It is absolutely vital that the Government disarms the ticking time bomb threatening the nation's pubs.
"Camra is demanding the introduction of a Pubs Watchdog to rule on disputes between licensees and pubcos, plus a guest beer right and a market rent-only option for tied licensees. These measures are essential in order to create a level playing field for licensees, ensuring those tied to the large pubcos are no worse off than those that are free of tie."
Camra said it was well over 12 months since the Government launched its consultation, but it had failed to act.
The campaign group said tied licensees must buy beer and other products from the pub company at an inflated rate, which is often at least 50% more expensive than the market rate. As a result 57% of tied licensees earn less than £10,000 a year, said Camra.
Mr Valentine added: "The reforms Camra are seeking will enable publicans tied to the large pub companies to make a decent living and invest in their business, protecting thousands of valued pubs and creating a thriving industry.
"The current model is weighted far too heavily in the favour of the pub company at the expense of the licensee and it is essential the Government acts now to redress the balance, before thousands more people lose their livelihood."