The Government’s decision to implement a breathtaking 7.2% increase in beer duty is outrageous. This takes the average duty and VAT on a pint in a local pub to over £1. We now have the second highest rate of beer tax in Europe! It is simply not acceptable. The “beer escalator” commits the Government to increasing beer tax above inflation and to the wrong policy path.
Take Bath as a case in point, nearly 2,000 people depend on Beer and pubs for work and the industry contributes over £22.7 million to the local economy every year. If it continues to shrink in the manner it currently is, local economies such as Bath’s will be severely hit. At a time of recession, this tax seems to be the opposite of what the struggling industry needs.
Equally, this extra tax will do nothing to stop the irresponsible drinker but do everything to hit the responsible pub goer. It will add on 10p to every pint in the pub, while the Government’s much talked about minimum pricing of alcohol will cap supermarket booze at a price that wouldn’t deter the stingiest of consumers. It is ludicrous to allow cheap supermarket booze, whilst taxing pub goers “for health reasons” at the same time. These measures penalise the majority of responsible pub goers whilst failing to tackle the heart of the problem which remains the question of why people consume such vast amounts of alcohol (often at home not in pubs).
At a time when 37 pubs are closing down every week in the UK, we need to be supporting these centres of our community, not putting them out of business. Where do Cameron and Osborne expect the big society to meet…the local Scout hut?
SIBA chairman Keith Bott said, “This is a real kick in the teeth to the local brewing sector, one of the few British success stories of recent years. Local brewers are just the kind of business this government says it wants to see prosper: they create jobs for local people and contribute to the local and wider British economy by using home-grown ingredients. Yet the current beer taxation regime is killing off our main route to market – the British pub.”
He continued, “The Treasury claimed before the Budget that their beer duty escalator is ‘baked in’. We say it is half baked! Continuing to increase taxes on draught beer, drunk in the socially responsible environment of the pub, will serve only to increase purchases of cheap vodka for unsupervised home consumption. We fail to see how this policy can help tackle binge drinking.”
The Government’s claim to being a “pub friendly government” seems to be slipping further and further out of sight.