The Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) notes that “pubs are at the cornerstone of our communities, offering a safe and social space for people to meet, providing 900,000 jobs across the UK and contributing £23 billion to the economy.” However, it states that “despite their great value, 18 pubs a week are forced to close their doors for good, to the detriment of communities and the local economy they once served.” It therefore calls for the Government to introduce “a support package for pubs to help stem closures.” Britain’s Beer Alliance is also campaigning on this issue, with its “Long Live the Local” campaign.
The pub sector supports 900,000 jobs, generates £23 billion in economic value and provides £13 billion in tax revenues. In addition, 30 million adults visit the pub every month. Pubs are at the heart of the UK’s communities. However, they continue to be under severe threat. I therefore agree that we must do what we can to support them.
I appreciate that organisations such as the Campaign for Real Ale and Britain’s Beer Alliance have a number of concerns about tax on beer and pubs. You will know that at the 2017 Autumn Budget the Government froze beer duty. However, this followed an increase at the 2017 Spring Budget which added 2p to the cost of a pint of beer and, together with increases in other alcohol duties, will have cost pubs around £125 million last year. I believe this increase was the wrong decision and posed a risk to pubs, particularly coming alongside increasing inflation and higher business rates.
On business rates, the Government announced in November 2017 that it would be extending a £1,000 discount for pubs with a rateable value up to £100,000 for a further year. However, I am concerned that this relief still represents only a temporary respite rather than long-term support. Furthermore, since the business rates revaluation in April 2017, around two pubs a day have been demolished or converted to other uses. I believe we need a fundamental review of business rates, including making revaluations annual to stop small businesses from facing sharp and unmanageable increases.
At the 2017 general election I stood on a manifesto that committed to setting up a national review of local pubs to examine the reasons for their decline, as well as establishing a joint taskforce that will consider their future sustainability. It also committed to giving communities more power to shape their town centres, including by strengthening powers to protect pubs.