I have recently spoken to the Chairman of Huddersfield Camra, of which I am also a member, but I should stress, due to reasons of my own, a non active member. Part of the conversation was the way that the local branch selects its pub and club of the year, (and also its pub of the season).
My belief is that the members of the branch, who attend a certain meeting are allowed to vote for their choice on the night and the pub gaining the largest number of votes on the night is duly elected ' Pub of The Year'.
I can see many reasons for this being unfair. All sorts of factors come into play. I accept that to vote one has to be a Camra member and I have no issue with this, but it is possible for a certain pub to rally its members to attend that one meeting to boost its chances of winning. It depends where the meeting is. Surely if the meeting is held at an out of Town pub, then it would be difficult, due to the geography of the town for supporters of other pubs to attend to cast their votes. There is the very nature of the pub trade which means that often members are working in their own pubs on the night of the meeting, and also members often work shifts which make attending impossible. The system of voting is disenfranchising its members and as such, I feel the system is unfair at worst and unreliable at best.
There must be a fairer system. In the days of computerisation would it not be fairer for all members, whether active within the branch or not, to be sent an e mail listing the possible choices for them to select, thereby reaching a wider range of members and getting a chance of a more fair election. I know all members do not possess computers but most do, and those who do not could be canvassed for postal votes. All that is required, as far as I can see, is a list of names from the membership secretary and either e mail addresses or home addresses for the details to be sent out.
The local branch produce their newsletter, 'Ale Talk', which is accessible to most of the membership who drink in pubs. Is it not possible to include a voting slip in there and allow the membership to post their vote back to the branch. I know that non members read it too, but all that is required for the application to include the Camra membership number to confirm that the member is eligible to vote.
This would reach a far greater number of people than the current system and would give everyone, not just those attending the meeting, their chance to vote. It seems obvious and fair to me but may just involve a little more work at branch level to send out and count the votes.
All I am concerned about is that the system be made fairer to all, to both the members and the pubs. Surely 'The Pub of the Year' is an important enough award not be left just in the hands of those who have attended a meeting ?