It’s been a topsy-turvy week for pubs, with the Government well and truly sticking its oar in – for better and for worse.
We got the “worse” first, with Chancellor George Osborne’s Budget (Beer taxation is punitive). While he may have fooled a few TV commentators with his pledge of “no further changes” to alcohol duty, most people in the on-trade knew exactly what it meant – the continued use of the alcohol duty escalator and a 2% plus inflation rise in the cost of a drink.
The industry lost little time in making its feelings known, with licensees, pub companies and brewers expressing their disappointment in huge numbers.
But just two days later came a proverbial ray of sunshine to match the unseasonably warm weather. The Government revealed its plans for a 40p minimum price for a unit of alcohol. (Licensed industry welcomes Government plans to introduce minimum alcohol pricing)
This was undoubtedly much better news – making it harder for supermarkets to offer crazy discount deals, which have long sapped the custom of businesses like pubs.
And then as Caterer and Hotelkeeper went to press, we learned of the National Planning Policy Framework, which sets out a duty for councils to “plan positively” for key local facilities like pubs – and that applies to all pubs, rather than just rural pubs. The move was described by the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) as “essential” at a time when 16 pubs per week are still closing.
How much either of those points will make up for yet another large hike in alcohol duty is hard to tell. But a growing e-petition campaign, fronted by Marston’s Hobgoblin, to scrap the escalator now has more than 25,000 signatures. And if it hits 100,000, the House of Commons must debate the petition.
So lend your voice to the e-petition and get a fairer deal for pubs -http://bit.ly/GG8II1.