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Saturday, 26 July 2014

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Calls to scrap beer tax to help struggling Cumbrian pubs

Calls are being made for the Government to scrap the controversial beer duty escalator to help struggling pubs across Cumbria and the rest of the UK.

Mike Vose photo
Mike Vose

The tax was introduced by Labour in 2008 to tackle the problem of binge drinking and sees tax on beer increase by two per cent above inflation every year.

According to new research by the British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA) beer sales have fallen for the eighth year in a row with 381 million fewer pints drunk last year.

Mike Vose, the landlord of The King's Head in Fisher Street, Carlisle, said publicans were facing a seven or eight per cent decrease year on year.

He added that charging a percentage above inflation was a ridiculous tax.

“They could charge three per cent extra on meat just because it is bad for you,” he said.

“I don’t think it is the sort of drink – it is the way it is sold. If you drink on my premises you drink in a controlled environment. But if you are drinking in your own house you don’t control how much you are drinking.”

Mr Vose said that binge drinking was not a new phenomenon and there were reports going back centuries.

Phil Tuer, of the Solway branch of the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA), said that the decline in beer sales had mainly affected lager and keg beers.

He added: “People realise that real ale is good value for money. Keg beers are more profit making for the accountants. The accountants are running the trade not the brewers.”

Mr Tuer said that the beer duty escalator was causing problems for the industry and added:“Binge drinkers are not real ale drinkers. The price of spirits has dropped considerably compared with beer.”

The BBPA has said the figures showed how the Government’s “damaging” tax policy was hitting the pub trade.

More than 100,000 people have signed a petition in protest at the extra tax, urging the Chancellor to announce in the March Budget that it will be scrapped.

Pub beer sales slumped by 4.8 per cent in the final quarter of 2012 compared with a year earlier, with total beer sales down by 4.7 per cent over the year.

Around 138 million fewer pints of beer were drunk in the final quarter of 2012.

Sales of beer in supermarkets and shops fell by 7.5 per cent in the final three months of 2012 compared to the previous year, while sales in pubs, bars and restaurants were down by 4.8 per cent.

Brigid Simmonds, chief executive of the BBPA, said: “These figures show that the Government needs to stop its full-on tax assault on our vital beer and pub industry.

“We’ve had tax hikes of 42 per cent since March 2008, which is hugely damaging and completely unacceptable for such an important manufacturing sector.”

He added: “Instead, we could be protecting and creating jobs at a time when the country most needs it.”

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