Last night saw the annual Local Government Parliamentary Reception in the Terrace Pavilion in the House of Commons.
Supported by the LGiU, the event is an opportunity for local councillors, officers and stakeholders to meet Parliamentarians and Government officials.
It is also a chance for MPs to learn more about the work of Local Government All Party Parliamentary Group, which is chaired by Heather Wheeler MP.
The key note address was delivered by Grant Shapps MP, Minister of State for Communities and Local Government.
Pub closure rates are running at 39 a week, shockingly this is an improvement on 2009 figures that saw closures peak at 52 pubs a week. Closure of local pubs is not just a concern for the local economy, but to community life more broadly. In a bid to save the public house the government proposes to help fund “community buyouts” and cut bureaucracy to make pubs more local. The idea is that residents in the area could set up a 'community interest company' to buy the company and use it for a range of community facilities – sorting out your post office tasks over a pint. An article in the Times today, gives the policy just 3 out of 5. Not necessarily because it’s a bad idea but because £3.3 million is not enough and the process will take too long to have an effect. Perhaps the answer is to take the idea and make it work with support from other partners - local government could help make connections as well as interested businesses. In Cookham Dean, sixty residents raised money to buy their local pub freehold from the brewery. This was made possible with a loan from Courage Breweries, in an intriguing arrangement where the more beer they sold the less interest they were charged. They leased the pub to a local chef and have the post office there on Tuesdays and Thursdays. It is providing services and a focal point for the community. There’s no need to stop at your local pub. There are plenty other local assets residents could be taking over, such as my personal hobby horse setting up local energy networks.