Protecting Britain's pubs requires much bolder action from the Chancellor than today's Budget

6 March 2024, 19:27

Protecting Britain's pubs requires much bolder action from the Chancellor than today's Budget
Protecting Britain's pubs requires much bolder action from the Chancellor than today's Budget. Picture: LBC/Alamy
Emma McClarkin OBE

By Emma McClarkin OBE

As the Chief Executive of the British Beer and Pub Association, I welcome the Chancellor's decision to extend the freeze on beer duty in today's Budget.

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It's a small step in the right direction and will be welcomed by brewers, pubs and consumers alike, and will help to maintain the affordability of a pint.

However, while no further increase is positive, it is simply not enough to address the pressing challenges facing our sector.

Come April, brewers and pubs face a brutal £450 million cliff edge of rising wage costs and business rates.

This additional burden on our already stiflingly overtaxed sector will undoubtedly put more pubs at risk of closure.

Despite the BBPA’s appeals, the Chancellor stopped short of implementing measures such as a cut to beer duty, a reduction in VAT, or a cap on the increase to the business rates multiplier.

These bold actions would have turbocharged growth and jobs in our sector and seriously stemmed the flow of pub closures that currently sees more than 10 pubs shut their doors every single week in the UK.

The reality is stark: without substantial support, hundreds more pubs are at risk of closure this year, adding to the alarming tally of recent closures, with over 1000 pubs having shut since the start of 2022.

The closure of these establishments not only has economic implications but also undermines the social and cultural fabric of our communities.

No government can afford to ignore the erosion of such a vital community asset.

While the decision to cut National Insurance contributions for all workers is a welcome move that could boost consumer spending, this, alongside the freeze in duty, is nowhere near sufficient to address the challenges facing our pubs.

We urge the Government to revisit the urgent measures needed to make the cost of doing business more manageable.

This includes committing to further fiscal support and policy reforms that will enable Britain’s pubs and brewers to thrive in the long term.

As we approach the upcoming election, it is imperative that all political parties recognize the importance of the British pub and commit to a robust fiscal and policy framework that supports its survival and growth.

We need concrete action to safeguard the future of our pubs and ensure they remain vibrant hubs within our communities.

In conclusion, while today's Budget provides a small amount of relief, it falls short of the comprehensive support our pubs desperately need.

We urge the government to heed our call for bolder action and stand firmly behind the British pub.

Our industry’s ability to grow and flourish depends on it.

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