Tag: axe the tax

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Britain’s beer tax problem

Don’t have time to really write much about this today but I received an interesting press release from the British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA) this morning.

As the budget approaches, the beer industry is bracing itself for yet another duty increase.  Duty on beer increased by 26% between 2009 and 2010, and is due to carry on increasing.  The Tories have committed themselves to sticking with Alastair Darling’s policy of increasing duty on beer by 2% more than the rate of inflation.  Which means that this year, just a couple of months after a 2.5% VAT increase, we look set for an increase of 5.7%.

Beer volumes are already in steep decline.  The plight of pubs is exacerbated because supermarkets continue to absorb the increases and keep prices low – because they can afford to lose money on beer to get people into the store – while pubs can’t afford to.

Analysts PriceWaterhouse Coopers have predicted that this relentless duty increases will actually result in the government receiving lower tax revenue overall, as the benefit for a higher tax per pint is more than outweighed by the resultant fall in demand the price rise creates.

And yet, incredibly, there are some ill-advised, hostile or just plain ignorant people out there who believe that, in the face of a watered down announcement about minimum pricing, tax on beer is too low.

If you hear anyone spouting such garbage, feel free to share with them a few stats the BBPA pulled together:

UK taxes (duty plus VAT) on beer already massively outstrip rates in any of our neighbouring countries. UK tax rates are EIGHT times higher than in France, TEN times higher than in Spain and ELEVEN times higher than in Germany.
The BBPA analysis also reveals the astonishing figure that Britain’s beer drinkers are paying FORTY per cent of the entire beer duty bill in the European Union – despite Britain’s small, 12 per cent share of the total population.  UK beer drinkers are paying £3.1 billion out of an EU total of £7.7 billion in beer duty revenues.
In addition, some countries, such as Italy, Portugal, and Spain, have lower tax rates of tax for pubs, bars and restaurants – to help their hospitality industries and the hundreds of thousands of jobs that depend on them.
BBPA Chief Executive Brigid Simmonds, comments:
“When it comes to alcohol taxation, we need a debate based on facts, not myths. Our alcohol taxes are among the highest in the developed world, and for beer we have had huge, 26 per cent duty increases in the past two years. What we really need is a freeze in beer duty in the Budget.
“Our already high taxes show that duty-plus-VAT cannot be used as a proxy for a minimum price for alcohol. This would have a particularly devastating effect on pubs. When it comes to tacking alcohol misuse, what we need most is improved alcohol education and awareness, and tougher, targeted enforcement of the huge range of existing laws. Pubs need lower taxes – and less red tape.”

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Seven Days to save the Pub

Went to a press conference yesterday as the Axe the Beer Tax campaign enters its final week.  I doubt whether the eerie Alastair Darling will listen, but the case against raising the tax now seems irrefutable:

  • Rate of pub closures is up to 39 a week – that’ll increase further if the tax goers through
  • 2000 pubs have gone to the wall since last year’s budget
  • Last year’s 18% tax rise has cost the beer and pub industry an additional £540 million – and yet the total tax revenue from beer has gone down thanks to the tax slaughtering demand for beer. 
MPs have shown an astonishing level of disapproval for the proposed further tax rise:
  • 70% of all MPs oppose further tax rises
  • 202 MPs have now signed the EDM calling for the rise to be scrapped – that’s only the fourth EDM EVER to get more than 200 MPs signed up, and the first time an EDM about fiscal policy has received such strong support.
  • 45% of Labour’s own back benchers oppose the rise.  It’s rare for such a high level of back bench revolt.
MPs only do things for political reasons.  There’s an election looming, and this widespread support for the pub industry can only mean they think beer tax rises are a vote loser, that their constituents are unhappy with their local pubs shutting down.
There’s still a week left to help change this cretin’s mind.  If you haven’t already done so, please sign up – you can see it’s working.

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How much do you want your pub to stay open?

Good news from the BBPA: more than a hundred MPs have signed an early day motion supporting the ‘axe the beer tax – save the pub’ campaign, launched by CAMRA and the BBPA last year and covered by me quite vociferously at the time.

This signals a growing widespread view that the plan to continue to tax the living daylights out of beer at a time when pretty much every other sector of the economy is receiving financial aid is simply not acceptable.
A press release from the BBPA yesterday also states proudly that 10,000 people have written to their MP about the issue, and 20,000 have signed the online petition and joined the Facebook group.
This pretty lady has shown her support.  Why haven’t you?
Nuts and Zoo fixture Jennifer Ellison at the campaign launch
Well great.
To put that 20,000 into context, the Top Gear Appreciation Group has 238,907 members.  The group ‘If 500,000 join this group I will change my middle name to Facebook’ has 172,371 members.
If 100 out of 646 MPs have expressed support, that means 15% of all MPs have done something. If every single person who signed up so far was a member of CAMRA (they’re not) then that would still mean that only 20% of CAMRA members have signed up.  Fifteen million people go to the pub at least once a week.  That means 0.13% of pub goers have signed up.
I’m pleased the campaign has made a dent on public consciousness, but really this isn’t good enough.  A quick google search reveals that coverage of the campaign consists almost entirely of blogs and trade press sites, with the occasional hit from the Wigan Weekly Post or Huddersfield Examiner.  As far as I can see the only national paper to have ever mentioned it is the Daily Star, and in that piece Jen’s breasts (above) loomed more largely than anything else.
Do we want to save our pubs or not?  The fact that one in six MPs have signed the early day motion shows the will is there to get something done.  The fact that probably a significantly smaller proportion of CAMRA members have signalled their support is deeply disturbing.  
I’m not picking on CAMRA (again) – it’s just that of all the people who claim to care about the preservation of their local, this group is supposedly the epicentre.  And CAMRA co-organised the campaign.  Every member gets regular updates from the organisation – there’s no excuse for them not to know about it.  
CAMRA itself represents only a minority of cask ale lovers – an estimated 7 million regular cask ale drinkers versus CAMRA’s membership of 97,000.  You can only get cask ale in pubs. Do 6.98 million cask ale drinkers – 99.7% of them – not give a shit that their pubs might close, thereby denying them the chance to drink cask ale?
Beer sales are at their lowest for seven years.  They fell by 10% in the last quarter of last year alone.  And beer drinkers – beer fans, beer aficionados – seemingly couldn’t give a fuck. 
If you know someone who likes going to the pub and enjoys drinking beer, get them to sign up. Let’s see if we can get more people motivated to try to save the pub with no more than a simple mouse click than there are members of ‘If it’s not from Yorkshire it’s shite‘ (76,922 members). On the other hand, that is a group I need to join.  But then, that’s so easy to do.