Heath Ball worked 98 hours in his north London pub last week. Some days he started at 7am and finished after midnight. And that was before he attended to his two other pubs in east London and Sussex.

Over the three sites, Ball needs 11 more staff but none of the applicants have wanted to work long evening shifts or weekends.

Paying them is another matter. Ball offers above the minimum wage and staff receive 100 per cent of tips — but that is becoming harder to fund as his energy bill has more than doubled, the price of meat is up 20 per cent, butter by 34 per cent and Greene King, from whom he rents the Red Lion & Sun and buys his beer, has increased prices 4.7 per cent to cover its own rapidly rising costs.

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