The Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) is calling on the Government to protect the beer and pub sector by maintaining a freeze in beer duty in the upcoming Autumn Statement, and to consider an additional cut in next year’s Budget.
The organisation has voiced concerned over the knock-on effects of the beer duty escalator from 2008-2013, which it says led to thousands of pub closures and job losses, that continue to be felt across the sector.
The beer duty escalator beer duty escalator is a policy which up-rated the excise duty placed on beer by 2 percentage points above inflation each financial year between 2008 and 2013.
With pub closures currently at 21 per week and off-trade sales of beer overtaking on-trade sales for the first time in 2015, further measures are needed to support the UK pub and beer sector, said CAMRA
Colin Valentine, CAMRA National Chairman, explained, “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.”
He added, “Pubs provide a safe, social environment to consume alcohol and in many cases act as the hub to the local 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.
The British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA) recently reported that UK beer sales had dropped by 3.4% from July to September, compared to 2015.
Its latest Beer Barometer sales tracker noted beer sales had hit a low in the second quarter of 2013, but have since stabilised after years of decline, and have not dropped below this level since.
The BBPA said the change in trend is down to a change in tax policy, with three beer duty cuts and a freeze in the past four Budgets helping to keep the price of beer affordable for consumers.
Beer duty is now 17% lower than it would have been under the previous ‘beer duty escalator’ policy.
Brigid Simmonds, BPBA Chief Executive, warned challenges posed by Brexit meant that the industry would still need to lobby the Government for fair tax deals.
She said, “Whilst the overall trend is moving in the right direction, with the challenges of Brexit, it is vital we continue to enjoy supportive tax policies that boost consumer confidence in beer and pubs.
“We do need to see further beer tax cuts, so that we can compete with our European neighbours when we leave the EU, as many of these countries benefit from substantially lower tax rates on beer.”