Industry welcomes ‘good work’ in November Budget

ALMR chief executive, Kate Nicholls
23/11/2017 - 07:00
Following yesterday’s (21 November) Budget Statement in which the Chancellor agreed to “freeze beer duty and extend the £1,000 business rate relief for most pubs in England,” the industry has rejoiced over “support for the UK’s valuable eating and drinking out sector.”

Praising the government’s “good work,” the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers (ALMR) urges it to “continue reform of business rates to help support the sector,” with chief executive Kate Nicholls adding: “At a time of rising costs, a freeze in the beer duty and a continuation of support for pubs on business rates is very welcome.

“The ALMR has been pushing for a duty freeze across all alcohol types, and this positive action will help tackle rising costs, saving the sector around £116 million, as well as underpinning consumer confidence.

“An extension of the pub-specific rates relief will save the sector almost £20 million, and bringing forward the move from RPI to CPI to calculate bills, something the ALMR has pushed for, will save close to £100 million over four years.

“The promise of more frequent revaluations is also welcome and something the ALMR has lobbied for, although we are concerned that, in practice, there may be some administrative burdens which will need to be addressed.

“It is also good to see the Government accepting the recommendations of the Low Pay Commission on the rate of the National Living Wage, de-politicising the decision. Although this may present a modest financial burden for employers it will also put money in the pockets of our customers.

“This shows that the Government has listened to the concerns of the sector, the concerns of ALMR members, and acted to support vital hospitality businesses at a time of economic and political instability. The ALMR has worked hard to communicate the pressures being faced by eating and drinking out businesses and it is good to see the Chancellor acknowledging these challenges and listening to what businesses have to say.”

“The next step is for the Government to push ahead with its promised package of root and branch reform for business rates, and the ALMR is looking forward to working closely with the Government to deliver change.

The British Institute of Innkeeping (BII) also welcomes the support, as chief executive Mike Clist explains: “We welcome the fact that Government has listened to the call to help pubs in what is a very competitive marketplace.

“Moving the annual inflation of rateable values from RPI to CPI, continuing the £1,000 rate relief policy for a further year and moving the revaluation of properties to three yearly will all help. We do, however, still believe the rating system needs a complete overhaul and we will continue to lobby for this. 

“No increases in drinks duty will hopefully encourage customers to continue to use our great British pubs.”

Speaking for brewers and publicans across the country, Carlsberg UK’s vice president of corporate, Bruce Ray, said: “Today’s announcement about a freeze in beer duty will be welcomed by brewers, publicans and everyone who enjoys a glass of beer in the pub.

“This year’s cut will support continued innovation and investment, create new jobs, attract tourists and ultimately benefit our beer-loving nation. This is a wonderful achievement secured through cross-industry work, and we are pleased that government has recognised that a thriving and prosperous beer and pub industry is what our nation needs.”

National Chairman of the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA), Colin Valentine, echoed this: “Pub goers were fearing the worst from this Budget but will now be raising a glass. Freezing beer duty will help arrest rising beer prices and keep the British pub going tradition affordable.

“To make a real, lasting difference we hope that this move represents the first step towards a long-term freeze. CAMRA is calling on brewers to match the Chancellor's support by holding beer prices so that local pub goers benefit."

He added: "We welcome the Chancellor’s decision to extend the £1,000 rate relief for pubs for one more year. This shows that the Government is alive to the threats facing English pubs, although more needs to be done.

“CAMRA is calling for further action to secure a thriving pub sector and would like this relief to be made permanent and increased to £5,000 a year. We would also like to see a wholesale review of the business rates regime, which unfairly penalises pubs and rewards online retailers."

Meanwhile, the British Takeaway Campaign (BTC) has also favoured the changes but claims “what is really needed is a fundamental overhaul of the system.”

Chair Ibrahim Dogus said: “It is good to see the Chancellor has heeded the BTC’s calls to reduce the burden of business rates on the mainly small firms that make up the UK’s diverse takeaway sector. We welcome the decision to peg future rises to CPI rather than RPI and to introduce more frequent revaluations, but what is really needed is a fundamental overhaul of the system.

“Most takeaways are responsible when it comes to dealing with litter and the sector is already taking steps to encourage consumers to reduce, reuse and recycle. With takeaways reliant on having a cost effective solution to keeping customers’s food hot, takeaway owners will be relieved that the Chancellor stopped short of introducing a new packaging tax on single use plastic. We look forward to working with the Government to explore workable alternative solutions which do not increase costs for small businesses, or lead to higher prices for customers.”

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