I joined the Campaign for Real Ale back in the mid 70’s, not long after the organisation was founded, and over the years I have been involved in a lot of its activities which have given me both pleasure and satisfaction.
However there is also a campaigning dimension to its activities and sometimes it is good to reflect on how this campaigning can be carried out. One strand is to educate people about the difference between real ale, which is not pasteurised and filtered, and keg beers which are. We can give advice on how to keep real ale and where to find it, with publications such as the Good Beer Guide and Patrick O’Neill’s book of Cellarmanship. We can celebrate the best of our pubs and beers by giving awards, such as our Pub of the Year. However, if we want to influence the industry and promote real ale and pubs, we must engage with the political system. On a national level it means building a relationship with MP’s to try to persuade them to support legislation such as a cut to beer duty or laws which will protect pubs from closure and to make sure that publicans get a fair deal. This has been successful over recent years, and in West Norfolk particular praise should go to our local MP Sir Henry Bellingham, whilst on the national stage names such as Greg Mulholland (Leeds North West) have done sterling work.
Now the hunt is on for local councillors to get involved and act as ‘Pub Champions’. These are councillors who have supported pubs in one or more of the following ways. Called in a planning application relating to a pub, objecting to a change of use or alteration, supported an ACV nomination for a pub, lobbied the council for further planning policies to protect pubs such as an article 4 direction or a Supplementary Planning Document, been active in supporting a pub protection policy for a local ward, have spoken out to support a pub campaign in a ward or hold surgeries for residents in a local pub.
If this describes you or someone you know our CAMRA National Campaigns Group would like to know. The group have a vast knowledge of planning law and experience in supporting pubs and landlords and can give help and advice in initiatives to protect and save pubs. By identifying supportive councillors it is hoped that they will be encouraged to continue their campaigns and to create new initiatives which can be shared with other local authorities.
If you would like your name to be passed on to our National Campaigns Group, or to have a conversation about how you could become involved, please contact me.
If further information and ideas are needed, a look at the report entitled ‘Public Houses: how councils and communities can save pubs’ http://www.lgiu.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/Public-Houses.pdf published by the Local Government Information Unit has a wealth of background and ideas. Some people have a dismissive attitude to all elected representatives, which I think is unjustified and much of the good work they do goes unrecognised.
Here is a suggestion. In the same way as there is an all-party parliamentary Save the Pub group, why not something similar in West Norfolk, with perhaps the most effective member being given an annual award in memory of Mike Tilbury?