Pub campaigners are welcoming a fall in the number of pub closures in the UK, but have called on the government to cut beer tax to help reinforce the fragile recovery.
Figures published by the Campaign for Real Ale reveal 27 locals a week shut their doors in the second half of 2015, compared to 29 a week in the previous six months.
Yet a report from the Centre of Economics and Business Research last year showed pubs and drinkers would benefit from a cut in beer tax – conclusions supported by the improving figures.
It found that beer would have increased by 16p a pint, more than 1,000 additional pubs would have closed, 750m fewer pints would have been sold and 26,000 jobs would have not been created had the beer tax not been cut in 2014.
Camra is now calling on the government to continue and strengthen its support for pubs by further cutting tax to help keep beer affordable and pubs open.
But Stuart Ainsworth, landlord of The Leopold Tavern, in Southsea, warned minimal cuts would make little difference as his pub company – Enterprise Inns – has put up the cost of the beer it provides to boozers by two per cent.
He said: ‘The pub companies won’t be cutting their prices. By the time the beer goes through a pub company and then sold on to the public, you lose that. In the last two years, the government has taken a penny off the pint. Has it really made a difference? I don’t think so.’
More than 3,000 Camra members have lobbied MPs to call for a reduction in beer duty. Camra says community locals are ‘particularly vital’ to the overall well being of their users, as shown by research it did into the benefits of pub going.
Camra chief executive Tim Page said: ‘The latest figures show that the work of campaigners across Camra, the wider pub and beer industry and the government is taking effect and arresting the decline in the number of pubs being lost every week.
‘However, it’s a fragile recovery which could very quickly be reversed if the government fails to build on this positive development and misses the chance to support the British pub and beer industry by reducing tax again.
‘The report produced by CEBR for Camra at the start of 2015 showed how cutting beer tax would have a great economic benefit for the country and the reduction in closure numbers is further proof that the chancellor’s decision was a good one.
‘It’s pleasing to see that our campaigning to protect community pubs is having an effect, with closure numbers reducing.’