Revealed: a pub or bar has closed every 14 hours under the Tories – Labour warns blanket withdrawal of furlough scheme threatens future of high streets and night life.

New analysis by the Labour Party reveals over 5,500 pubs and bars have closed in the UK since the Tories entered government in 2010 – one pub or bar every 14 hours.

The number of pubs and bars has fallen in every region and nation of the UK.

This includes 855 in the South East and a quarter of all pubs in Gillingham and Rainham, which has fallen from 40 to 30 pubs since the start of the Conservative administration.

Labour is today warning that the Tories risk further closures of pubs and bars, accelerating job losses and damaging high streets and night life across the country, if they press ahead with their blanket withdrawal of the furlough scheme.

Pubs and bars have been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic and are still operating with severe restrictions, yet the furlough scheme is now being withdrawn from all businesses alike ahead of a hard stop at the end of October.

The British Beer and Pub Association warned in August that over one third of pubs (37%) could not break even in their first month of reopening, whilst one in four pub and breweries said they didn’t think their business was sustainable past March 2021.

Labour is calling for furlough support to be extended and targeted at the industries still under threat, and for business grants underspend to be redeployed as part of a Hospitality and High Street Fightback Fund.

But the decline in pubs and bars is also a symptom of the government’s long-term neglect of the UK’s high streets and local businesses, with footfall down 10% since 2012 and around one in ten high street shops standing empty – even before coronavirus hit.

It also reflects general economic mismanagement, with the Tories presiding over the slowest recovery from recession on record and an unprecedented 12 years of wage stagnation.

Labour Councillor Adam Price who represents Gillingham North Ward, one of the areas in Medway which has seen the most pub-closures over the decade said that, “It’s really disappointing to see these numbers of pub closures across Medway, and the pattern is clear – pubs are simply not getting the support needed from national Government.”

“Gillingham and Rainham has seen a wave of pub closures – from The Black Lion in Mills Road, to The Dog and Bone in Jeffery Street, to The Barge in Layfield Road – to name a few.

“The picture across Gillingham and Rainham is all too familiar – economic pressure is hitting local businesses hard, and more must be done now more than ever to save jobs in this sector.

“Pubs play such an integral part to our local communities. A perfect example of this is The Will Adams pub in Lock Street. Over the years, it has thrived as a community pub with good conversations which include everyone. It is vital that support is provided to institutions like this one, which are integral to our local communities.”

Cllr Adam Price and late partner Eileen, in their favourite pub - The Will Adams Pub in Lock Street, Gillingham
Cllr Adam Price and late partner Eileen, in their favourite pub - The Will Adams Pub in Lock Street, Gillingham

Lucy Powell MP, Shadow Minister for Business and Consumers, said:

“Pubs are a vital part of our high streets and social fabric in communities up and down the country. They have been hard hit by the pandemic and Tory indifference and incompetence over many years means that many have gone to the wall.

“Ministers’ blanket approach to ending the furlough further threatens the future of many pubs in the Medway area. The furlough scheme must be extended for hard hit sectors to save jobs now, and a Hospitality and High Street fund so local areas can target support at businesses still in distress”

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