Back in May, I wrote to Greg Clark, the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, urging him to provide a support package for British pubs.
Despite some positive steps from the Government, the UK’s beer duty is still one of the highest in the EU. This, combined with high business rates, has hit pubs hard and resulted in many customers looking to supermarkets to buy cheap alcohol.
At the 2017 Autumn Budget, the Government froze beer duty. However, this followed an increase at the 2017 Spring Budget which added 2p to the cost of a pint of beer and, together with increases in other alcohol duties, will have cost pubs around £125 million last year. I believe this increase was the wrong decision and posed a risk to pubs, particularly coming alongside increasing inflation and higher business rates.
On business rates, the Government announced in November 2017 that it would be extending a £1,000 discount for pubs with a rateable value up to £100,000 for a further year. However, I am concerned that this relief still represents only a temporary respite rather than long-term support. Furthermore, since the business rates revaluation in April 2017, around two pubs a day have been demolished or converted to other uses.
I believe we need a fundamental review of business rates, including making revaluations annual to stop small businesses from facing sharp and unmanageable increases, alongside a number of other reforms.
Action needs to be taken to safeguard Britain’s pubs and halt their decline. Not only do pubs often serve as the hearts of communities, but they also provide economic enrichment for their local areas and the country as a whole. Indeed, the pub sector supports 900,000 jobs, generates £23 billion in economic value, and provides £13 billion in tax revenues.
This was the case that I put to Greg Clark back in May. I have now received a response from Robert Jenrick, the Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury, which I have posted below:
It is deeply disappointing that the Minister’s letter is entirely a repetition of what the Government has already done, with no new support pledged for our struggling pubs.
I hope that, ahead of the 2018 Budget, the Government will outline what it plans to do to help British pubs, and all of the people who rely on them. Clearly, more action needs to be taken.
Ahead of the 2018 Budget, and onwards, I can assure you that I will continue to fight for British pubs and raise the concerns of the British pub sector with the Government.