Co-op summit in bid to save 82 community pubs

The Plunkett Foundation is planning to organise a Co-operative Pub Summit next month after the Government pulled the plug on Labour’s plans to provide £3.3 million financial support...

The Foundation said the emergency summit of various co-operative support groups and other interested parties is being called as a response to news that the proposed co-operative pubs support programme has been cancelled.

The Community-Owned Pubs Support Programme was announced by the Department for Communities and Local Government in March as part of a 12-point plan for helping pubs. Despite no formal launch, 82 communities sought the help of the Plunkett Foundation, the project leaders, to turn their threatened pubs into community-owned co-operative pubs. 

However the Coalition Government announced this month that the support programme would be cancelled and be replaced with a guidance leaflet for the 2,500 communities facing pub closures each year. 

Plunkett Chief Executive Peter Couchman (pictured) told the News: “This is devastating news for each community which had hoped to save their local as a co-operative. The Government has turned its back on communities who were looking to take more responsibility over their everyday lives. The scheme was based on bringing together the expertise in the Co-op Movement which currently helps to save ten per cent of all village shops facing closure.”

The summit will bring together representatives from across the sector to discuss how communities can be supported to set up and run co-operative pubs following the announcement that also threatens the £7m of loan finance pledged by the Movement.

Added Mr Couchman: “The summit will look at how the Movement’s expertise and resources can save some elements of the scheme without the Government. We don’t know how, but we are determined to try. 

“Communities owning and running their local pub has been used by the Prime Minister constantly as an example of the Big Society at its best. If communities are to take control, then they are going to need help and advice. Promised legislation for a Community Right to Buy is very welcome, but without proper support it will be a Community Right to Fail.”

The decision to cancel Labour’s community pub buy-out scheme has also been criticised by Co-operatives UK Secretary General Ed Mayo and by Michael Stephenson, General Secretary of the Co-operative Party. 

Mr Mayo told the News: “The new Government talks a good talk on co-operatives, but — based on this decision by Eric Pickles — the walk is still in the wrong direction. The decision means local residents are being asked to climb a wall of commitment without the resources or expertise they need to back them.”

And Mr Stephenson commented: “We are now seeing the true colours of the Tories and Lib Dems. In opposition, they claimed to support co-operatives, yet after barely three months in power, they have ruthlessly dumped yet another co-operative initiative.

“The Co-op Movement always knew the ConDem commitment to co-operatives was cynical and not genuine, but the speed of their betrayal has been breathtaking.”

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