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. I also appreciate that pubs continue to be under severe threat and I agree that we must do what we can to support them.
As you may be aware, at the 2018 Budget the Chancellor confirmed that duty rates on beer, cider and spirits will remain frozen. I know that this announcement has been welcomed by many stakeholders in the pub sector, including the Campaign for Real Ale and Long Live the Local.
The Government also announced that there would be one-third off business rates for all retail premises up to a rateable value of £51,000 in 2019-20 and 2020-21. The Chancellor has said that this will give an annual saving of up to £8,000 for up to 90% of all independent shops, pubs, restaurants and cafes.
However, these suggested changes only make good on the damage done by the Government’s botched evaluation back in 2017. I am concerned that this relief represents only a temporary respite rather than long-term support.
I believe we need a proper root-and-branch review of the business rates system, including making revaluations annual to stop small businesses from facing sharp and unmanageable increases. In addition, I think that it would be sensible for the Government to look at the whole framework for alcohol duties.
On beer and pubs more generally, at the 2017 general election I stood on a manifesto that committed to set up a national review of local pubs to examine the causes for their decline, as well as establishing a joint taskforce that will consider their future sustainability. I also pledged to give communities more power to shape their town centres, including by strengthening powers to protect pubs.
I agree with many constituents that have contacted me to say that pubs are at the heart of the UK’s communities and play an important role in our national economy.