Sunday, 21 April 2013

To The Manor Osborne

So we’re all supposed to be jumping for joy now that George 
Osborne has scrapped the duty escalator and cut beer duty by 1p.

Camra’s website proudly states that “The campaign is won!” 

Well pardon me if I don’t get the bunting out for the honourable member for Tatton. 

Indeed he did indeed scrap the beer duty escalator altogether and instead of the 3p rise he kindly gave us the lowest possible reduction.

But his budget was yet another nail in the coffin of the traditional British pub. 

What he actually said was “I intend to maintain the planned rise for all alcohol duties – with the exception of beer.”

Yes, wines and spirits are still going up as per the escalator. The fact that excise duty on beer has increased by 42% since 2008 is still true. Well maybe now 41.6% because of his kind donation.

It was in fact a great big slap in the face for the humble publican. The problem being that most of them, including me, didn’t envisage that he would scrap the escalator and had therefore held off applying trade price increases until the budget so they could be passed on in one go, hopefully for the year, minimising customer reaction to yet more rises. 

However, by reducing the price of a pint, customer perception will now be that beer must be reduced at the pump. But what about all the duty increases that were not passed on and absorbed by the bottom line of the businesses?

Indeed Moorhouse’s from Burnley put their trade prices up at the beginning of March. Why couldn’t they have waited until the budget? I know that some of their own pubs were waiting to see what happened. Now they are forced to put the price up at the pointy end and suffer customer dissatisfaction.

Don’t get me wrong, I am in favour of the escalator being scrapped because it was unfair and unsustainable. 
I signed the e-petition and I also wrote to my MP, Gordon Birtwistle, asking him to urge the Chancellor to scrap it. His response was typical party line stating that they are helping pubs by reducing corporation tax. I’m sorry but if you are worrying about that then you are at least making money. 

The government need to go further, much further.

The man from number 11 Downing Street said: “responsible drinkers – and our pubs - should not pay the price for the problems caused by others.” Well if he really means this then he needs to do much more than giving back a paltry penny.

I have said it before but I really think that duty should be reduced on draught beer and these reductions passed on to canned and bottles. This would mean that there shouldn’t be a reduction in the net duty take. It would also make the playing field far more level. Tesbury’s don’t sell draught beer (god forbid if they ever start) so they wouldn’t be able to undercut the pub trade for once. 

More people drinking on licensed premises would also lead to more jobs and in turn increases in income tax, VAT and beer duty being paid to the treasury. 

It really does appear that these millionaires that run our country are completely oblivious to the fact that pubs are not the cause of the so called binge drinking culture.

In my opinion we cannot sit back just because a victory was won. There is more to do.

So I say to all the fine Camra members out there that it is only the battle that has been won, the campaign must continue.

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