Star comment: Pubs - use them or lose them

Our low-wage/high-cost economy means many people can no longer afford a pint.

The chaos of Downing Street, the horrors of Ukraine and the devastating effects of the cost of living crisis has averted our gaze away from local issues.

The pandemic was the dominant news story for two full years as the world suffered catastrophically and as our lives changed. The rollout of vaccines and the decisions of governments around the world to exit lockdowns changed that. We learned to live with the illness and found a way to get on with our lives.

Yet closer to home, there are myriad issues affecting the local communities in which we live, not least the fate of pubs. Once the places where community cohesion was engendered and where most people met, their position in our society has irrevocably changed.

Scores of West Midlands pubs have closed since the outbreak of Covid and dozens have closed this year alone.

There are a number of hard-hitting reasons for that. Covid decimated trade and wiped out the cashflow of many businesses. Brexit caused staff shortages, spiralling staff costs and supply chain issues for some, particularly those in urban areas. The rise in energy costs has led to devastating changes to the cost base of many businesses while our low-wage/high-cost economy also means many people can no longer afford a pint.

In an era of vastly reduced leisure expenditure, pubs are on the frontline and more will close. There is something we can do to prevent this – use pubs more often. The region has great real ale pubs and great pub/restaurants. It’s up to us to provide patronage, lest even more close. They are essential components of our community; we must lose no more.

In today's newspaper we provide you with an eight-page pull-out stuffed full of ideas of how to pass the time of day in the summer holidays.

It is an annual exercise for newspapers at this time of year and anticipates the breaking up of schools, which is an exciting prospect for children – but less so for parents.

Here in the Midlands the choice is mind-boggling. The guide only really scratches the surface. It is a snapshot of ideas, a mere taste of the dishes on offer. It is also an illustration of our thriving region, full of ideas, great venues, events and wonderful locations for a memorable family day out.

We may not have the coast, but we do have great towns, cities and beautiful countryside.

Money helps, of course, when it comes to entertaining children. But, as our guide shows, there are many ways to spend the day on a budget or without spending anything at all.

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