Friday 5th February
Its difficult having just one 'local boozer' when you're involved in local politics. With my area of operations extending across four villages because of the various hats I wear, I've found over the last year or so that I frequent several pubs for business and pleasure feeling equally at home in all of them.
So, if I'm in Windlesham, I'm generally enjoying Conrad Sturt's hospitality at the Half Moon; if West End, then Gerry Price at 'The Inn'; if I'm in Bagshot it's Lizzie at 'The Fighting Cocks'; Camberley Town Centre, then either Martin Lock at 'The Carpenter's Arms' or occasionally Ben & Nina at 'RSVP'. And in each of these I always feel that I am cordially welcomed.
Last week, I was actually invited to 'The Half Moon' by Conrad although this one was for business, rather than for pleasure. Conrad had organised a meeting of the 'Six Villages Pub Watch', in order to discuss national and local brewing matters and other areas of concern for the local hospitality trade. I was there in my capacity as Vice-Chairman of the Borough Licensing Committee, along with Michael Gove MP and the Police, although the operators in the main seemed happy with the functions provided by the Borough Council; main concern from operators seemed to be their decreasing purchasing power with the breweries.
Another point which struck a chord was employment law and the manner in which employers were increasingly being seen as the enemy with regards to the management of employees. Gerry Price had mentioned this before at the previous week's Business Breakfast and mentioned that he had to pay increasingly dear insurance premiums to protect his business from the claims of employees. Its a tricky one, for while I support the idea that all employees require some degree of protection from unscrupulous employers, businesses - and in particular small businesses, without the resources for massive HR departments - need protecting from unscrupulous employees too. My business had experienced a similar case in recent years with a groundworker who had unilaterally decided that he no longer liked groundwork and we had similarly determined that in some cases employment carried onerous penalties for the small businessman: we switched to contracting as a direct result.
I had to agree with Gerry. with businesses under mounting financial pressure, a simplification of the rules is required and overdue.