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Wed 17th Feb 2021 - Exclusive: Emeny – pub sector chief executives keen to have meaningful engagement with government
Exclusive – pub sector chief executives keen to have meaningful engagement with government, says Emeny: Simon Emeny, chief executive of Fuller’s, has told Propel chief executives from the UK’s leading pub companies are keen to re-engage with the government but this need to be at the “right level” and not used as a “tick box exercise”. Emeny reiterated the hospitality sector remained united in getting its voice heard but the current line of engagement with the government “simply wasn’t working”. At the weekend, Propel reported chief executives from the UK’s leading pub companies had written to the government saying they were stepping back from weekly talks with business minister Paul Scully, after being exasperated at the “obvious lack of interest and respect” they were getting. After working closely with the government to reopen the sector safely last July, Emeny said the collaborative approach had stopped by the autumn, highlighted by the introduction of the 10pm curfew and, and galled by constant leaks to the national media over the past six months about proposed policies that had not been discussed in the aforementioned weekly meetings. Emeny said: “We have a lot of respect for Paul Scully, he understands the sector but over the past six months, through no fault of his, there has been a disconnection between what is discussed at these weekly BEIS meetings and the decisions being made or aired in the national media by the cabinet office. The 10pm curfew decision was an early example and the ‘no-alcohol in pubs’ leak and the proposal to just open outside areas are two more recent examples. On all of these, we were not consulted even though, last July, we proved as a sector that by working collaboratively with the government we could open safely. After the latest round of leaks we decided to step down because we felt these weekly meetings were serving no purpose, with the government continuing to make assumptions about the sector to validate its decisions, without any consultation. This is being done without any consent from an industry that employs 3.2 million people, is being crippled financially, and supports suppliers and communities.” Emeny along with his peers, including Nick Mackenzie at Greene King, Patrick Dardis at Young’s and Phil Urban at Mitchells & Butlers, have all written to the prime minister Boris Johnson to call for better dialogue and for the government to engage with the sector in a consultative and collaborative way. Emeny said: “This can’t be a tick-box exercise. There is too much at stake and the sector can play a crucial role in the recovery, if given the chance to do so. The industry is united in this – across pubs and restaurants. However, the previous approach to engage with the government simply wasn’t working. We need to get back on the front foot and the government needs to listen to the voice of 3.2 million people. It is unacceptable that we have to wait another month before hearing about whether there will be an extension of the VAT cut and the business rates relief, which only highlights again why we need better engagement at the right level. We need to stop assumptions about the sector being made and focus on the facts.”

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