Norwich landlady challenges Labour leader to help pubs

A pub owner has challenged Labour leader Ed Miliband to save the Norwich's pub trade.

Dawn Hopkins, pictured, owner of the Ketts Tavern on Ketts Hill and the Rose in Queen's Road tackled Mr Miliband during a campaign trip to Norwich yesterday.

Mrs Hopkins got her chance to put her concerns directly to Mr Miliband at a question-and-answer session organised as part of the visit.

'We haven't seen anything in the past or future from Labour to make it any better; unfortunately we are losing the industry,' she said. 'We have a pub in Norwich that's been demolished and turned into a Tesco.' She said the biggest thing a government could do to help was tackle the cut-price alcohol sales in supermarkets, which were undercutting the industry and fuelling binge drinking and anti-social behaviour.

'I firmly believe that is why we have so many problems with abuse,' she said.

And she added the 'beer escalator' duty was also making it worse for pubs, while supermarkets had the buying power to get around the levy.

'I have got under 10 staff and I'm clinging on by the skin of my teeth to keep running,' she said. 'It's not helping and I can't see anything helping.'

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Mr Miliband said the pubs issue was something he wanted the party, and he said like the post offices pubs were important community resources.

'You can't just leave everything to the market,' he said. 'We have got to find ways of taking action. It's something we are looking at as a priority.'

The Evening News is backing pubs as part of our Love Your Local campaign.

And the Labour leader gave the thumbs up to the campaign.

'We need to find ways of supporting the local pub, and I applaud the Evening News campaign,' he added.

Mr Miliband also heard from Labout activists about the work they had been doing on the city council to help save pubs.

During the question and answer session the fate of the NHS was also raised as a particular concern, as well as questions on police cuts, help for older people, the coalition government's academy schools programme, and Sure Start centres. The Labour leader took a tour of the Norwich University College of the Arts to meet staff and students and also to raise the issue of coalition cuts.

He then met local Labour candidates standing in the May 5 elections and was presented with a small parcel of goodies from the city including chocolate, mustard, and an 'I love Norwich' tea towel.

Labour was all but wiped out in the region in last year's general election, losing Westminster seats in Norwich, Great Yarmouth, and Waveney.

But locally, the party fared well in last year's delayed Norwich City Council elections, and is hopeful of gaining outright control of City Hall.

There is also a sense of optimism that the party could pick up seats in other Norfolk councils too.

And with much of the election campaign likely to be dominated by national issues, Mr Miliband said he hoped that voters would elect Labour councillors as 'instruments for standing up against government policies'.

'I am hopeful we are going to do well in these elections, but I take nothing for granted,' Mr Miliband said. 'I know we have got a big task to persuade people.

'I know we have got a mountain to climb, but that starts here.'

What do you think the political parties should do to protect the pub trade? Email