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Landlords fear Jeremy Hunt’s alcohol duty freeze won’t help ‘struggling pubs’ amid calls for VAT cut

Landlords have poured damp water on Jeremy Hunt’s alcohol duty freeze announcement after claiming it will “save pennies”.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer confirmed rates on alcoholic beverages will remain the same until August 1 next year.


Conservative MPs have welcomed the announcement, with one telling GB News that he was “delighted”.

However, landlords and bar managers have voiced concern about Hunt’s latest attempt to alleviate the pressures facing the great British pub.

WATCH NOW: Jeremy Hunt announces an alcohol duty freeze

Cayley Evans, landlady at the Bakers Arms in the rural Essex village of Danbury, told GB News: “To be honest, freezing duties won’t save any money at all. The only thing that will help us at all is a VAT reduction. Freezing duties will save pennies. It goes through so many hands before it gets to us. I know that sounds pessimistic but that’s the reality of it.”

GB News commentator Adam Brooks, who runs The Three Colts in Buckhurst Hill, also said: “How is not punishing us further a boost? A cut is a boost.”

Brooks labelled Hunt’s announcement “rubbish” and argued the Government is only interested in big business.

He added: “Pubs are closing so often now. I think insolvencies are up 66 per cent year-on-year in pubs. We’ve got the third-highest alcohol duty in Europe. It’s 10 times what Germany’s is. We need a massive cut, a massive rethink on this. How can I celebrate something that is going to cost us money down the line? They’ve put wages up. Where do we find that extra money? This is no boost.”

Sam Rice, who runs the Loaf and Cheese in Burton-upon-Trent, also told this broadcaster: “They need to lower the prices … but I don’t think that will happen.”

Despite concerns from publicans across England, Hunt championed the move in the House of Commons.

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Essex publican Adam Brooks

GBN

The Chancellor told MPs: “As well as confirming our Brexit Pubs Guarantee, which means duty on a pint is always lower than in the shops, I have decided to freeze all alcohol duty until August 1 next year.

“That means no increase in duty on beer, cider, wine or spirits.”

The Treasury also claimed the announcement would result in a 3p duty cut on the average pint of beer.

Hunt thanked a number of MPs for pushing for a duty freeze, including Buckingham MP Greg Smith and former Welsh Secretary Alun Cairns.

Welcoming the duty freeze, Smith told GB News: “Pubs are still struggling in the post pandemic world and need all the help they can get. Particularly in rural communities, pubs are so much more than a place to enjoy a pint but hubs for the whole community. It is essential duties are frozen or cut.”

Cairns was even more cheery and suggested the Chancellor’s announcement could help get the UK into the festive mood.

Man drinking beer

The Treasury has claimed it will reduce the levy on a pint of beer by 3p

PA

The Vale of Glamorgan MP said: “This is an early Christmas present for publicans, brewers and those of us who enjoy a beer! Freezing duty and reducing business rates for pubs recognises the role they play in our communities. These measures are in addition to the Brexit pub guarantee which ensures lower beer duty in pubs. We should all raise a glass to the Chancellor tonight.”

A number of other Tory MPs also argued the move would benefit British boozers.

Deputy Conservative Party chairman Matt Vickers, who co-wrote a 39-MP letter to Hunt requesting an extension to the 75 per cent business rate relief, said: “I am delighted to see a freeze on alcohol duty and think that coupled with the 75 per cent business rates relief it could ensure pubs in my community can survive and thrive.”

Aberconwy MP Robin Millar also told GB News: “I warmly welcome the news that breweries, pubs and hotels in Aberconwy will benefit from a alcohol duty freeze, on top of the draught and small brewers’ reliefs announced in spring.

“They are at the heart of our communities and the engine of our local economy. Aberconwy is blessed with some of the nation’s best hospitality and food producers.

“Whether it is investment in electrification of the North Wales mainline, helping Aberconwy households with bills or looking after small businesses – the UK Government is listening to our priorities and acting.”

Former Wales Secretary Alun Cairns arrives at 10 Downing Street

Former Wales Secretary Alun Cairns arrives at 10 Downing Street

GETTY

However, Millar also took aim at the Welsh Government for not introducing similar measures to assist the pub trade on the other side of the River Severn.

The 55-year-old, who is a member of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Beer, added: “The 75 per cent rate relief for pubs, shops and hotels is a vital move, which will be welcomed by businesses across England. I call on the Welsh Government to match this commitment, so that our communities and businesses are not put at a disadvantage.”

Despite the 75 per cent rate relief handing a further boost to publicans, small businesses could struggle to adapt to certain measures intended to alleviate the strains of the cost-of-living crisis.

Chief Secretary to the Treasury Laura Trott announced the National Living Wage will increase by around 10 per cent to £11.44 per hour from April next year.

The announcement will come to the relief of low-paid employees but will inevitably mean employers need to cough up the cash or shift the expense onto the consumer.

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