Protest over beer tax rise

Clive Allen, of the Golden Fleece, Shaw, near Melksham, who took part in the protest against the beer tax rise in London with CAMRA

Clive Allen, of the Golden Fleece, Shaw, near Melksham, who took part in the protest against the beer tax rise in London with CAMRA

First published in News

Pub owners and members of the Campaign for Real Ale say the price of a pint next year will be a real cause for concern.

Fifteen representatives from CAMRA in North-West Wiltshire joined a national protest against an increase in beer tax this month.

They joined 1,200 other members in parliament on December 12 and gained the chance to lobby Chippenham MP Duncan Hames and North Wiltshire MP James Gray.

The beer duty escalator introduced by the last government in 2008 is currently in place until 2014 to 2015.

It means the beer duty is automatically increased by two per cent above inflation every year, with more than a third of the cost of a pint going in tax.

Clive Allen, landlord of the Golden Fleece at Shaw, near Melksham, believes the tax affects business in Wiltshire.

He took over the pub with his wife Debbie in May 2011 and said since then he has had to put prices up by 30p a pint from £2.90 to £3.20.

Mr Allen said: “In a recession we have been forced to put our prices up when everyone’s income is going down. Because we cannot absorb the tax rise out of our own profits, a lot of people are looking for cheaper alternatives and drinking at home.

“I’m worried that in local communities the pubs will disappear because they don’t make any money.

“It’s coming from all sides – food prices are going up, energy prices are going up, and although council tax has been frozen for domestic houses, our business rates are still going up.”

During their talk with the MPs, members of CAMRA suggested off-licences and supermarkets should share some of the tax burden.

These businesses can keep the price of alcohol low and absorb the cost of the tax by raising the price of other goods in store.

It was suggested the Government should have two rates of duty – for off-licence and on-licence businesses.

Gareth MacDonald, vice-chairman for North-West Wiltshire, said the problem of beer tax was a particularly difficult one in Britain.

He said: “In Britain we pay 40 per cent of total alcohol tax across the EU and yet we only drink 13 per cent of the total. We pay eight times the duty of a French drinker and 11 times the duty of a German drinker.

“Especially at this time of year the supermarkets will subsidise that because they know people will do the rest of their shopping there.”

Arthur Grun, who has run the Horse Guards at Brokenborough with his wife Janette for eight years, said they had to withdraw their guest beer pump because of a decline in sales coinciding with the last beer duty escalator rise.

Mr Grun said: “I resent the fact that this government is using the beer tax as a cash cow.”

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