The Pubs Code Adjudicator will return more than £800,000 to the pub companies it regulates because it did not launch any investigations in the year to April.
The adjudicator’s annual report shows that it will return almost a third of the £2.5m it raised from the pub-owning businesses it oversees owing to lower-than-expected staffing, legal and investigatory costs, The Times reports.
Campaigners said the figures showed that Paul Newby, the adjudicator, was not intervening enough to challenge the industry.
This month the adjudicator said it would investigate Star Pubs & Bars over the alleged imposition of unfair trading terms on some of its publicans – the office’s first formal investigation.
This came after the launch of a government consultation on the effectiveness of the adjudicator and the rules he enforces, the pubs code, which was introduced in 2016.
The legislation allows publicans to request a “market rent only” deal so they can buy their beer and other supplies on the open market.
Chris Wright, of the Pubs Advisory Service, a publicans’ group, described the report as “groundhog day” since it followed the pattern of previous years. He said regulated pub companies “got to enjoy another year without investigation … made sweeter by a refund”.
However, a new report commissioned by the British Beer & Pub Association, representing major brewers and pub companies, found the code was “performing well” in some areas.
Brigid Simmonds, chief executive of the British Beer & Pub Association, said: “We believe greater clarity and guidance is needed, not changes to the [code] itself. The leased and tenanted model is a low cost, low-risk way to run a pub. There should be no rush to undermine this model fundamentally, which has seen pubs operate successfully for hundreds of years.”