Written evidence submitted by Mark Beckett |
I am writing in a personal capacity to express my
dismay at the way that the Pub Co's, and particularly Enterprise
Inns, are being portrayed during the current select committee
I should state my interest in this issue at the outset.
I joined Enterprise Inns at its formation in September 1991 as
Financial Controller, a role I held until 2006 when I took up
a new role as Project Accountant.
The picture being painted of Enterprise Inns bears
no resemblance to the organisation that I have had the pleasure
to work for for almost 20 years. The organisation is, and always
has been, professional, honest and well managed and I am immensely
proud to have played a very small part in the development and
success of the Company.
We are very lucky to have incredibly talented and
committed publicans running most of our pubs, in the majority
of cases we are able to work closely with these publicans to deliver
mutual success. Our business needs our publicans to be successful.
Any small business failure is a tragedy for the individuals
involved, however setting up and operating a small business is
risky in any sector and unfortunately there will be failures.
This does not mean that Enterprise or indeed any other Pub Co
is responsible for these failures.
Small businesses are under immense pressure at the
moment, the pub sector having been damaged by the credit crunch,
recession, smoking ban, excessive duty increases and to cap it
all the VAT increase to 20%.
Enterprise has taken unprecedented steps to support
publicans during this difficult time. Our support is targeted
at publicans who run their businesses well and who have appropriate
controls in place.
We have provided increased discounts and rent concessions,
this support is completely discretionary. There is no contractual
obligation on Enterprise to take this action. We do this to support
publicans who are struggling despite their very best efforts in
the knowledge that as their business recovers both parties will
reap the benefit.
I do not believe that Enterprise has ever claimed
to be perfect, the Company is made up of around 500 people, individuals
just like our publicans who come to work every day trying to do
their best. Individuals make mistakes and I am sure that our employees
make mistakes. Where we do make mistakes we are committed to fixing
At your recent "evidence" session our detractors
claimed that no progress has been made, this is clearly nonsense.
Since the last enquiry we have implemented fully
our updated Code of Practice. I know this because the majority
of my time over the last 18 months has been spend managing the
project to implement new systems and controls that enable us to
ensure that all our commitments are honoured.
The Code has been in place for almost a year now
and as reported by the BII only a small number of very minor breaches
have been recorded, despite the fact that hundreds of new agreements
have been signed under the new Code.
I cannot think of any other business that puts as
many hurdles in front of new customers to make sure that they
fully understand the deal that is being offering before they sign
up. At every opportunity we recommend applicants take appropriate
advice, we require applicants to meet our training requirements
and produce a full business plan approved by a suitable qualified
trade accountant. We provide disclosure about the property condition
as well as trading and investment history. Our view of the business
in the form of a detailed profit & loss account is provided
before negotiations commence.
The process is completely transparent. No one is
forced to sign an agreement with Enterprise. As a public limited
company Enterprise is under constant scrutiny by shareholders,
auditors and analysts, unfortunately our detractors are not scrutinised
in the same way. It appears to me that your committee finds it
difficult to accept evidence provided by the trade, but you accept
opinion and misstatement from our detractors without any serious
form of challenge.
I urge you to bring some form of balance to the debate,
accept that great progress has been made by the industry, and
at the very least treat the evidence of our detractors with the
same level of cynicism that you seem apply to evidence from the
26 July 2011