In a report detailing events at their May conference, there was an account of Vice-President John Tobin's motion to call for separate smoking rooms in working men's clubs.
So-called independent reports had been submitted to the Government to the effect that there was no evidence of overall financial damage being done to industry as a result of the smoking ban. “What a load of rubbish,” he exclaimed. Less than two years into the ban, local authorities had been instructed to consider claims for reductions in business rates directly attributable to the ban. Bissett Kenning & Newiss represented about 700 clubs making a claim. Ninety-five per cent were successful and the average rebate was 10 per cent of rates to continue on a year-by-year basis. There is your firm evidence of real and substantial damage caused by the smoking ban’.He is very well informed - but then, he would be considering he is 'in the trade' - because here is the relevant tax guidance from the Valuation Office Agency in 2008.
4.3) It was not considered that this change [the smoking ban] could constitute a [material change of circumstance] and earlier versions of this advice reflected this. Advice from counsel now shows this view to be wrong that the ban on smoking can be a matter affecting the physical enjoyment of a hereditament. In other words, how it can physically be used beneficially.In short, it is accepted that businesses suffered a material loss as a result of the ban, and so business rate relief is merited for those who claim.
4.9) In considering smoking ban proposals, [valuation officers] need to envisage what rent would be have been paid for the hereditament at the [antecedent valuation date] assuming the ban was then in place affecting both the subject premises and other premises.
So we have a government agency admitting losses due to the ban, and physically rebating over 650 CIU clubs as a result. This is without taking into account the many more numerous affected pub operators, as Eric Pickles spoke strongly about while in opposition.
"Whatever people's views on the smoking ban, it has been a significant change that has affected many pubs. The Government's own tax inspectors have now admitted that pubs may be eligible for refunds on their business rates"Very odd then, that the hastily swept-under-the-carpet government review of the ban - demanded by the original legislation on the third anniversary - found that there was no problem at all.
It was, however, written by Linda "rent-a-report" Bauld.
So who are we to believe? People who work in the industry day in, day out, and who are calling for an amendment to counter falling revenues; the rating agency which has decided that pubs and clubs have certainly suffered as a result of the smoking ban; government ministers who have stated on record that it is a material change to trading ... or some career anti-tobacco prohibitionist, with no grounding in business or commerce, who has never earned a productive penny in her life, and whose grant status relies on producing studies to please the Department of Health?
Hmm, whaddya think?