The pub is swiftly pricing itself out of the market

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The Independent Online

The decision by Olympic organisers to trial east London's first £8-plus pint (OK, that's an equivalent through adding up a couple of £4.30 bottles of Heineken) generated considerable annoyance. But is that really so expensive when compared to the average London pub? Figures suggest they're rapidly catching up. The Morning Advertiser trade paper reports that the average price of a pint of bitter ticked up by an inflation-busting 4.6 per cent over the past year to £2.80. In London it has hit £3.38. A pub pint is becoming a luxury purchase and the supermarkets are cashing in as a result.

With household budgets under continuing pressure, the British pub is pricing itself out of what its customer base can afford.

At times like these the industry tends to knock on the Chancellor's door, and it does have a case for complaint. Number 11 imposes a welter of costs. But this is an industry which has also suffered from chronic mismanagement, and too many pub companies still have to spend too much money servicing debt. This leads to prices that have to be set too high for the average consumer to stomach.

Is the industry calling last orders? Not yet, but it needs to act, because the last-chance saloon won't stay open long.

Wheatley turns on small incentives

The best part of a decade in Hong Kong appears to have transformed Martin Wheatley from the acceptable face of the London Stock Exchange (he was once deputy chief executive) into the City's version of Judge Dredd. Yesterday he turned on bonuses, not just the mega-bucks enjoyed by those at the top but the smaller incentives for those lower down the food chain.

While traders place bad bets in the financial casino for millions, on the road shiny-suited salesmen compete for one-off super bonuses in the thousands for stealing pensions. The latter was an actual example dug out by Mr Wheatley who yesterday declared, in so many words, that he was calling time on such practices.

He wants incentive schemes to promote good practice, heralding the return of the cuddly bank manager advising you not to borrow too much in case you got into trouble?

We've been here before. People have been talking about the dangers inherent in commission-based sales for more than 20 years now and yet it's done nothing to stop the scandals. Home income plans, personal pensions, endowments and payment protection insurance: all have been foisted upon naive consumers, lured by smiling salesmen claiming to have their best interests at heart.

Mr Wheatley may have to wield a very big stick if he wants to effect real change. Does he have the will, and will he be allowed to use it? We'll see.

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