Foreign Secretary On Hand to Re-Open Yorkshire Pub Saved By Community
By David Parker
The opening of the community-owned pub at Hudswell, North Yorkshire "is an example of the Big Society at work", William Hague said on Saturday.
It was surprising to find the Foreign Secretary concerning himself with community enterprise and alarming to see him holding a large knife. But all was explained.
William Hague is one of the 170 or so shareholders of Hudswell Community Pub Ltd (read the case study about Hudswell), which is in his constituency.
He was speaking as he cut the cake at an exuberant celebration as the George and Dragon reopened after standing empty for nearly two years.
Apart from that brief reference to David Cameron's vision, the event was free of party politics as the villagers enjoyed the beer, the music and the satisfaction of having achieved something remarkable. With pubs closing down at the rate of 40 a week, Hudswell has defied the trend.
I had last visited the George and Dragon in February when the sale had just been completed and large team of volunteers was clearing, cutting and scrubbing away months of neglect. In less than four months the pub has been transformed. There's a new kitchen and toilets and many small touches to show that the place is cared for. In the snug there is a lending library. Outside there are now 11 allotments and space reserved for community events such as bonfires.
Plans for the future include opening a small shop within the pub and developing a bed and breakfast business.
Hudswell Community Pub shows that co-operative action can succeed where private enterprise has failed. This has been demonstrated again and again by the opening of community-owned village shops but so far co-operative pubs are very rare indeed.
In March this year the last government announced a new scheme to support community-ownership of pubs. That scheme has been put on hold. And, despite the Foreign Secretary's endorsement of the principle, I don't think it will be revived.