Southsea pub backs campaign group's call to the government for beer duty freeze

Beer campaigners are urging the government to protect the beer and pub sector in the Autumn Statement.

Thursday, 17th November 2016, 6:00 am
Updated Thursday, 17th November 2016, 3:18 pm
Stuart Ainsworth from The Leopold Tavern in Albert Road, Southsea Picture: Ian Hargreaves (14974-9)

Whitehall is being told to maintain a freeze in beer duty and consider another cut in next year’s budget in order to boost the industry.

The Campaign for Real Ale says it is concerned the crippling effects of the beer duty escalator from 2008 to 2013 – which put up the price of a pint by two per cent above inflation every year, and which led to thousands of pub closures and job losses – continue to be felt.

With 21 pubs shutting a week and supermarket sales of beer overtaking pub varieties for the first time in 2015, further measures are needed to support the UK pub and beer sector, say supporters.

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And local publicans agree the government must help – while supermarkets should also be ordered to change to ease pressures.

Stuart Ainsworth, landlord of The Leopold Tavern, in Albert Road, Southsea, said: ‘We have the highest beer duty in Europe, it’s ridiculous what we have to pay.

‘It’s been cut the last few years, but not in real terms.

‘The price of a pint on the bar hasn’t gone down, the pubs have had to put up their prices. Costs have gone up, on things like barley and hops.

‘The money saving hasn’t been passed to the publican, so it doesn’t get passed on to the customer.

‘There needs to be a big change in the way the breweries charge tenants, the big breweries.

‘Yet they put their prices up because of increased running costs.’

Colin Valentine, national chairman of the Campaign for Real Ale, said: ‘UK pubs and breweries are facing a great deal of uncertainty in these times of economic uncertainty.

‘Pubs in particular are facing significant cost burdens, including business rates, pension auto enrolment and increases to the national living wage.

‘Coupled with UK beer drinkers paying significantly higher duty on their pint than other leading beer-drinking nations, at 52.2p on the pint, we are seeing a significant shift from people drinking in pubs to people drinking at home.’

‘Pubs provide a safe, social environment to consume alcohol and in many cases act as a hub to the community.

‘They can have a huge impact on a person’s well-being and can help individuals make friends and build networks. Their continued existence, and the valued role that they play in society, should remain a priority for this government.’

Camra is also calling for a fairer deal for pubs on business rates.