Wanted: meaningful direct support for our pubs

The Campaign for Pubs has urged the chancellor, Jeremy Hunt, to announce meaningful direct support for pubs in the Autumn Statement tomorrow.

Some 383 pubs — more than two a day — permanently closed in the first six months of this year, almost matching the total for the whole last year, when 386 were permanently lost.

There is a real danger that, without meaningful direct support, the next six months could see hundreds more communities lose pubs, simply because of a short-term crisis, says the campaign.

The current level of government support is wholly inadequate, it adds, and the survival of many pub businesses now depends upon direct and properly targeted government action, focused on pubs themselves. Direct support is needed in the form of a VAT cut and an extension to business rates relief.

Cuts to beer and other alcohol duty have minimal impact on pubs but funnel huge tax cuts directly into the pockets of global brewers, giant pubcos, and multinational drinks producers, say campaigners, so it is a VAT cut that is needed to help pubs. The Campaign for Pubs made a submission to the Treasury consultation in October, calling on the Government to introduce such meaningful direct support.

At the same time as pub closures have escalated, small breweries have been closing at a high rate, with around 90 closing their doors over the last year. Even more could stop trading without government support, further eroding the diversity of the UK brewing sector.

The number of small UK breweries going out of business tripled in the last year, according to research from accounting firm Mazars, which reported 45 breweries closing in the 12 months to 31st March, compared to 15 bankruptcies in the year prior.

In tomorrow’s statement, the campaign wants to hear:

  • Reduced VAT that would benefit all pubs, including wet-led, community-oriented venues
  • An extension of zero business rates for the next fiscal year, and a revision for 2024/25
  • Further support for small businesses struggling to pay energy bills
  • A reduction in the flat rate of VAT
  • Extended business rates relief for small brewers and ciders brands, and other sector producers

“The chancellor and government must finally announce meaningful direct support for pubs in the form of a VAT cut on all pub sales, as well as an extension of business rates relief, and support for businesses’ energy bills…” Greg Mulholland, director of the Campaign for Pubs.

“Pubs need direct support to get through this crisis, and we also urgently need a simple change to planning law to stop the predatory purchasing of pubs by unscrupulous developers.”

Dawn Hopkins, vice-chair of the campaign and a publican in Norwich, added: “So far it seems this government only listens to the large brewers and pub companies, and not to the people who actually run pubs and are working themselves into the ground trying to make ends meet, with energy bills and other prices high and still rising.

“The current level of government support is simply inadequate, and the survival of many pub businesses and small brewers now depends upon decisive and properly targeted government action.

“If the Conservative government cares at all about pubs, the chancellor will announce direct support and a VAT cut for all pub sales.”

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