In-fighting between members of the British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA) may have contributed to the untimely departure of the trade body's chief executive, Rob Hayward, just-drinks understands.

Disagreements on policy and priorities between different BBPA members was a factor in Hayward deciding to leave the group, a source familiar with the situation has told just-drinks.

The BBPA announced earlier this week that CEO Hayward would be leaving with immediate effect, after a decade in the job.

His departure comes only days before drinks trade bodies, including the BBPA, are due to meet UK chancellor Alistair Darling to discuss financial pressures on the beer and pub sector.

The BBPA has ramped up its campaign for ministers to scrap a proposed 2% above inflation tax rise on beer in next month's 2009 Budget. Tax rose by 18% last year and the BBPA says that 40 pubs are closing their doors every week.

A BBPA spokesperson refused to be drawn on the timing of Hayward's departure when contacted by just-drinks this week.

Another industry source close to the situation said, however, that "clearly, the timing of this could not be worse".

The BBPA said in its statement this week that Hayward "has decided that now is the time to leave in order to allow him to more actively pursue his political interests".

It added: "The BBPA would like to place on record their thanks for his contribution to the success of the association and wish him well as he embarks upon this new challenge."