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UK public calls for duty freeze

As the drinks industry faces a potential double whammy in today’s Emergency Budget, the British Beer & Pub Association has released results of a poll suggesting that 75% of the UK public support a freeze or reduction in beer duty.

Of the 1,011 people polled by ComRes between 9 and 10 June this year, a further 60% felt government tax policy should support beer as a lower strength drink.

As chancellor George Osborne tries to cut the UK’s £156 billion deficit, the Treasury was said to be considering a repeat of the 5% alcohol duty increase imposed in March on top of an increase in VAT to up to 20%.

The combined impact would see the price of a pint in pubs rise by more than 10 pence.

Such is the concern at the impact of these predicted measures that, for the first time ever, the BBPA, the Campaign for Real Ale and the Society of Independent Brewers have united to call on Osborne to show support for the UK beer and pub sector in his Budget.

According to a report released by Oxford Economics, raising the VAT levy to 20% is, on its own, likely to lead to losses of more than 7,000 jobs a year across the UK beer and pub industry.

Brigid Simmonds, chief executive of the BBPA, pointed to “an even more devastating impact on pubs and jobs” if a further alcohol duty increase was heaped on top of a VAT hike.

“With dozens of pubs closing every week across the country, such a move from the chancellor can only mean more communities being hit”, she warned, adding: "It is time for the government to back the pub to help the economic recovery and support community life."

While beer and wine duty has risen by 26% – and spirits duty by 22% – since the start of 2008; according to information from HM Revenue & Customs and provisional figures from the Office for National Statistics, the government’s overall tax revenue from alcohol has fallen during the same period by £730 million.

Gabriel Savage, 22.06.2010

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