STRUGGLING pubs across Worcestershire have been handed a vital lifeline - with tough new rules coming into place to help keep them open.
The Government has announced a new statutory code is coming into place offering landlords guaranteed rent reviews and a crackdown on tied contracts that force them to buy booze at sky-high prices.
The code is a major victory for Worcester MP Robin Walker, who is part of a House of Commons committee which first called for changes last year and launched a campaign in March to keep more city pubs open.
Under the new rules, pub owners will have the right to get an independent review into any rental increases they are slapped with.
Almost half the country's 50,000 pubs are run under contracts in which they buy beer from the firm that holds their lease at 'above market prices' in return for other benefits.
The code gives landlords the right to call upon an independent adjudicator to solve any disputes and get an assessment to see if they would be better off without a tied deal on beer purchases.
Mr Walker, who led the charge for a strict code on a commons' business select committee, said: "For a long time now I've been concerned about landlords being locked into deals where they end up paying a lot more than they should for their beer.
"It's a real tie and can drive them out of business - a lot of pubs have said to me they want to be in a much stronger position and hopefully this will help more of them stay open."
In recent years scores of Worcester pubs have closed down and are increasingly being turned into houses.
It includes the like of the Berwick Arms in Bath Road, The Arboretum Inn in Northfield Street, The Babourne Inn in New Bank Street, Barley Mow in Sidbury and The Lansdowne Inn in White Ladies Walk off Upper Tything.
Landlord Colin Kenwrick, who runs The Berkeley Arms in School Road, St John's said: "I'm with Marston's and I've got 10 years left on my tied deal.
"They are a good company to work with because they brew their own beer, but I do moan about the prices.
"If they dropped it say 10p I could give 5p back to the customers.
"If I was able to buy nine gallons of bitter elsewhere it'd save me £40, but I can't."
The Government will announce the full code in tomorrow's Queens Speech.