Former Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers (ALMR) chief executive Nick Bish has been drafted in to help boost membership of Jacques Borel’s VAT Club.

Bish told M&C Report that he has been asked to help with membership recruitment, though the details of his involvement have not yet been agreed.

It is understood that Bish is being tasked with finding new members and going back to lapsed members with the message that the campaign team has listened to their criticism and changed its approach.

The campaign to reduce VAT in hospitality from 20% to 5% currently has 55 members, a mixture of operators and suppliers, and is targeting 75 by Christmas.

However, Borel has consistently under-shot his membership targets, despite last year admitting that his time “was improperly allocated: 80% on financing search; 20% on lobbying. It should have been 50/50”.

In May 2013, the VAT Club had 43 members against its contractually agreed target of 50. But Borel said: “We will have 60 members in July [2013], 70 in August and 80 in September.”

By October of that year membership remained at 43.

Borel then outlined a new and “ambitious” target of five new members per month towards a total of 32 new members – 75 in total – by March 2014.

In January this year, membership stood at 58, after JD Wetherspoon chairman Tim Martin personally recruited a raft of new supplier members, including Gamestec Leisure, Monster Energy, C&C Group (the producer of Magners cider), Kopparberg and Matthew Clark.

But in June the VAT Club lost 14 of the 29 members of the Independent Family Brewers of Britain (IFBB) from its membership in June after the association chose not to renew its group subscription.

Borel said 51 companies representing 15,000 pubs and restaurants participated in last month’s Tax Equality Day, reducing prices on food and drink to simulate a VAT cut.

Borel said: “Nick Bish has been involved for many years with the campaign to reduce VAT. He is now volunteering his experience and knowledge to give independent advice to VAT Club JB, and also to brief individuals and companies in the sector about the campaign’s progress and how the industry can support it.”