Banging the drum gets a result
by David Weston
Chairman of the
Bed & Breakfast Association
As the trade association for the small owner-managed accommodation sector, part of our role is to campaign and lobby on behalf of our members – B&Bs, guest houses and small hotels. It is not the only key thing we do – we’re also here to support and inform too, to offer discounts and member benefits and guidance through the maze of regulation – but “flying the flag”, and often banging the drum, is important.
And it can work. After we (and the BHA, FSB and others) had lobbied against the excessive hikes in Business Rates – and just over a week after I had told the Minister of Tourism how some B&Bs were being disproportionately affected – the Chancellor in his Spring Budget capped the hikes at £50 per month for those who had previously enjoyed rate relief. He also softened the blow for others with over £300 million in additional help.
The owner of one boutique B&B in Brighton told us: “I think we can call this a RESULT!”
The previous month – again following lobbying by our sister organization the Scottish B&B Association, and the Scottish Tourism Alliance, BHA and others – the Scottish finance minister had capped Business Rate rises at 12.5% for a year for “hospitality and pubs”. (There may be a catch – believe it or not the Scottish Government could not confirm whether B&Bs counted as “hospitality” businesses – so another wrangle ensued!)
After banging our heads against many seeming brick walls (sorry for the mixed metaphors today!) on a number of issues, it is always good to see some light at the end of a tunnel (another one!). This happened in a big way on fire precautions official guidance in 2008 (when the new guidance produced with our input lightened the potential cost burden by thousands of pounds per B&B, according to Government figures).
We have also seen smaller “wins” in areas like music licensing, where the two main bodies have aligned their criteria and introduced exemptions or waivers for small B&Bs, and in alcohol licensing, where the Home Office is (albeit very slowly) working on a cheaper, quicker alcohol licensing regime for small B&Bs and others.
It is fair to say, though, that on many big issues the battles last years, often with no signs at all of success. But it may just take a change of Minister, or a seemingly unrelated event, to open up a window of opportunity, and things can then change quickly.
The B&B Association will continue to relentlessly pursue your interests as B&B owners, and press them with Governments, regulators and big businesses (such as online travel agents) – and we look forward to more “results” in 2017 and beyond.
The Bed & Breakfast Association is the UK trade association for B&B and guest house owners, and exists to inform, support & represent owners. Membership costs £60 a year.