Minister throws £1m lifeline for struggling pubs – over a pint

By DAVID WOODING

HUNDREDS of pubs facing closure will be thrown a cash lifeline under Tory plans to support struggling communities.

A special £1 million fund will be set up to help local people launch takeover bids to keep their boozers open.

Environment Secretary Elizabeth Truss told me of the plan over a glass at one of Westminster’s favourite watering holes.

The move is part of a package of measures to boost rural areas to be unveiled in the Conservatives’ election manifesto.

It would help protect up to 600 pubs which act as community hubs from being knocked down for developers or turned into housing or takeaways.

Tories will set up a “Last Pub in the Village” fund to help locals step in to save their favourite watering hole.

They will be able to apply for loans to pay for legal fees needed to stage a takeover or win a protection order.

Ms Truss said pubs in rural areas also act as job centres, information hubs and the backbone of sports teams.

She said: “Pubs can be a cornerstone of a community, especially in rural areas where they become an important focal point.

“People form lifelong friendships in village pubs, which bring people from all social backgrounds together.

“It’s important for country pubs to stay and that’s why we’re putting up the money to protect the last pub in the village.”

Ms Truss said a future Tory government would also impose a five-year freeze on licence fees for small community pubs – helping to cut their overheads.

She has by a community rescue of the King’s Arms, at Shouldham, Norfolk,  where villagers bought shares in the pub and volunteers carried out a refurb.

It is now a thriving community hub which provides school meals for local kids and serves pub grub in the evening.

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Sipping a glass of cider in the famous Red Lion on Whitehall, she added: “We’ve already done a lot for the great British pub by cutting beer duty three years in a row.

“This has protected an estimated 16,000 jobs and we want to build on that in the next parliament.

“Pubs are great places to drink responsibly in a social setting. They’re also good for tourism and can provide other services for the areas they serve.”

Last night the plans were welcomed by the pub and beer industry.

Keith Bott, managing director of Titanic Brewery, in Stoke-on-Trent, said: “This would be a massive boost for the pubs which are part and parcel of the British way of life.

“Hundreds of them are struggling so it is vital to do what we can to protect those which are an asset to their local community.

“Freezing licence fees would be a big help, too, as there are fears that some councils are using them as a cash cow at the expense of hard-hit pubs.”

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When political prejudice is all in the mind.

By DAVID WOODING

SOMEBODY tweeted me the other day asking why I only posted poll results which showed the Tories in front. 

I then dug out a tweet of mine from a few weeks earlier which began: “Labour surge into a six-point lead…”  Another time I wrote how  Ed Miliband has trounced David Cameron at PMQs. Within seconds, I received a reply from a top Tory asking if I was watching the same debate. On a single day I received tweets from a Leftie calling me a “Tory c*** sucker” and a Ukip supporter branding me a “first class Left-wing p****” who should be working for the Guardian or the Mirror. You see, it is all in the mind, depending on whether you wear blue, red or yellow tinted spectacles. In fact it is YOU the complainant who is biased because you only see it your way and don’t like your side being criticised.

Lots of fellow journalists get the same unwarranted criticism. I stumbled across this short piece by Michael Deacon of the Daily Telegraph which sums up why most of us are NOT biased while many of those who read us and get irate are.

By the way, there’s nothing wrong with a journalist being biased if he or she wants to. My good pal Kevin Maguire of the Daily Mirror is shamelessly Labour and does a great job of it. Call me simple, but I just like to get political stories, whoever it hurts or boosts – which is why I object to being called biased. Here’s Michael’s piece which you should read before you call foul at us again.

Every football journalist in this country is routinely accused of two things. 1) Being biased towards Manchester United. 2) Being biased against Manchester United.

It’s like that with politics. A lot of people on the Right think the BBC is biased to the Left. And a lot of people on the Left think the BBC is biased to the Right. I’ve been told that I’m biased for and against the Tories, Labour, Lib Dems and Ukip (Ukip opponent: “You treat Farage with kid gloves.” Ukip voter: “You’re racist against Ukip!)

This is why I’ve got no time for the claims by some viewers that Jeremy Paxman and Kay Burley were biased in their treatment of David Cameron and Ed Miliband. Some thought the presenters were nakedly Cameron. And others took them for blatant Lefties.

The truth about claims of media bias is that the claims themselves tend to be biased. People only ever detect bias against their own side.

To go back to football: fans always accuse the referee of being biased, but only in their opponents’ favour. You can start to take claims of bias seriously the day you hear them shout, “Oi, ref! That’s never a penalty! Our striker blatantly dived! Are you taking backhanders from our chairman or what!”

Well said, Michael.So next time you rush to Twitter to hurl abuse, just take a long look in the mirror (the one on your wall not the one that lands on your doormat) and ask who is really the biased one here. And don’t forget to re-tweet me when I land a blow on the other side.