A coalition of industry and consumer bodies, including UKHospitality, the British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA), Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) and the Society of Independent Brewers (SIBA), has written to the Chancellor of the Exchequer ahead of the Spring Statement.
The joint letter urges the Chancellor to provide decisive action on three key issues for the sector: business rates reform, hospitality VAT and post-Brexit duty.
The letter calls on the Government to undertake a comprehensive review of business rates, undertake a consultation on a possible reduced rate of VAT for hospitality and engage with the sector to overhaul the excise duty system to promote the consumption of lower-strength drinks in licensed premises.
UKHospitality Chief Executive Kate Nicholls said: “With cost pressures continuing to squeeze many businesses and with the UK’s withdrawal from the EU fast-approaching, the time is right for the Government to provide decisive support for hospitality businesses.
“The Government has indicated that it will provide the support we want, and that it will undertake a review on business rates, but pubs and restaurants are still overpaying £1 billion in year in rates. We want to see the Government push ahead with its promised review and begin to fashion a regulatory system that supports hospitality businesses and supports growth.
“With Brexit on the horizon, the Government has an opportunity to address sector concerns around VAT and instigate a duty regime that promotes hospitality businesses as well as addressing any concerns it may have regarding unsupervised consumption of higher-strength drinks.
“We hope the Chancellor accepts our offer to engage with the sector and provide pubs and hospitality businesses with the support they need to grow.”
Brigid Simmonds, Chief Executive of the British Beer & Pub Association, said: “I hope the Government will consider this united call for a review of actions to help our sector. The business rates burden on pubs is particularly acute, paying 2.8% of all business rates while accounting for less than 1% of rateable turnover.
“British beer is also over-taxed, and while the duty freeze in the Autumn Budget was welcome there is still work to be done to protect a great British manufacturing industry. Of every £1 spent in a pub 34p goes to the taxman. We must take action to reduce the cumulative impact on our pubs which are so vital to their local communities.”
CAMRA National Chairman Colin Valentine said: "CAMRA believes that while temporary business rate relief for English pubs has been welcome, a complete overhaul of the system is needed to fix the root issue. As we leave the European Union, we are urging the government to look at how taxation on beer and pubs can be changed to benefit both publicans and beer drinkers.
“Pubs need a fair deal on tax to ensure that they remain competitive with off-trade outlets like supermarkets, which are better placed to absorb the high cost of taxation. We need to act now to help keep the lid on price increases so that more people can afford to visit their local and enjoy all of the personal, social and community-wide benefits of pub-going."
Mike Benner, Chief Executive Society of Independent Brewers (SIBA) said: “Nearly every Member of Parliament has at least one independent craft brewer in their patch creating jobs, investment and above all, great beer. Brewers rely on pubs, restaurants and the hospitality sector for a significant part of their business. That’s why we need the promised business rates reform from the Conservative Manifesto, action on hospitality VAT and long term thinking about what the duty system might look like post-Brexit. Every MP in the land should be pressing the Chancellor and HM Treasury to take the opportunity to work with us to get this right.”