One aspect of this week’s pre-budget statement that hasn’t had much coverage is the fact that duty was raised on alcohol, tobacco and petrol to ‘offset’ the advantage they would gain from the reduction in VAT. There’s since been a rethink and it looks like the move will be reversed on spirits and alcopops – but not beer or wine.
I’m always conscious of trying not to swear too gratuitously on this blog – it’s not professional. And this move is all about financial revenue rather than doing anything to combat binge drinking. But how fucking stupid do you have to be to give tax breaks on the drinks that teenagers are throwing up in the streets, and single out the beer that many people enjoy responsibly in community pubs for special punishment?
Pubs are already closing at the rate of five a day. Beer sales are already at their lowest for forty years. Beer has already received a record tax increase this year. And now beer is pretty much the only part of the British economy that isn’t receiving financial help in the credit crunch.
The industry has calculated that the duty increase does more than offset the VAT drop – it creates a net price increase. And while the VAT drop is temporary, the duty increase is likely to be permanent. Together with the further swingeing duty increases already planned over the next four years, beer duty is set to increase by 40% – and it was already among the highest in Europe.
This fucking moron is killing our pub industry and he has to be stopped – and I say that as a lifelong socialist (I know that’s not the same thing as being a Labour supporter any more, but you take my point).
The British beer industry has always been a bit rubbish at speaking with one voice. The typical response on something like this is for CAMRA to do one thing, the Publican and Morning Advertiser to each mount their own separate campaigns, and the British Beer and Pub Association to do something different again, all of them without talking to each other.
But desperate times call for desperate measures, and this morning the BBPA and CAMRA (and for some reason Jennifer Ellison and Kym Marsh) launched a five point “Axe the beer tax – save the pub” campaign. It looks like there’s some coordination (though I’d have thought inviting beer writers along to the event might have helped spread the word – I only got sent the press release afterwards). Hopefully this is the start of a coordinated effort to actually do something. Sustained, focussed lobbying CAN work. We need everyone to get behind this campaign rather than start their own, and speak with one voice. It’s too late and too urgent for one body to say it doesn’t entirely agree with the aims of another, or wants its name in lights and not theirs. This is an issue that affects everyone in the brewing and pub industry, and beer drinkers throughout the UK – whether your favourite tipple is Bud or Timmy Taylor’s.
So whether you’re a brewer, writer, pub landlord, professional beer bore or just someone who enjoys the pub, go to www.axethebeertax.com, sign the petition, lobby your MP. Save the pub.