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Campaign for Pubs

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The Government must think again before it pulls the rug from under the UK’s small brewers

The Campaign for Pubs, the national grassroots campaign for a fairer future for pubs and small brewers, has called on the Government to reverse its highly controversial decision to change Small Brewers’ Relief, which will force some small brewers out of business.

The Campaign for Pubs has written to the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, urging the Government to think again and realise the damage the policy will do. The letter, sent from Campaign for Pubs Brewer Coordinator Phil Saltonstall (MD of Brass Castle Brewery) and supported by many smaller brewers, makes clear the damage that the change will do to many smaller breweries and the fact that the so-called ‘Small Brewers Duty Reform Coalition’ is made up, not of microbrewers, but of medium sized and larger breweries seeking to pull up the drawbridge and stifle competition in the pub sector. One of the signatories is the Yorkshire Dales Brewery, based in the Chancellor’s constituency.

The decision to reduce the threshold at which Small Brewers Relief on beer duty starts to taper from 5000hL to 2100hL means that a number of small breweries will shoulder an increased tax burden.  The Campaign for Pubs has also expressed anger and incredulity at the timing of the announcement, coming at a time when most small independent breweries have already missed out on the government support made available to their counterparts in the hospitality industry, in the way of cash grants or a business rates holiday. If the change goes ahead, it will almost certainly lead to the loss of jobs and breweries.

The only winners appear to be a few larger and regional brewers, at the expense of the competitiveness of our nation’s smaller breweries and consumer choice at the bar.  It is becoming clear that a small cartel of larger breweries, in association with some of the UK’s pub companies, have successfully lobbied the government in order to skew the market to their further advantage.  Questions are now being asked as to why an unrepresentative group of brewers have been listened to and small and microbrewers have been ignored.

The Campaign for Pubs is not opposed to reconsidering the parameters of Small Brewers’ Relief in the light of changes to the beer industry since it was introduced nearly 20 years ago.  We believe however, that it can and must be done in a way that doesn’t involve smaller breweries paying more tax.  The Relief needs to remain a progressive measure that both supports smaller brewers and doesn’t then penalise brewers as they grow and expand beyond the threshold.

The Campaign for Pubs are calling on more smaller brewers to ‘write to Rishi’ and to join. The Campaign for Pubs has been formed to campaign for the needs of pubs and publicans and smaller brewers, not big brewers, pub chains and large pubcos.  The Campaign for Pubs campaigns for a better, freer and fairer, more sustainable pub and beer sector as laid out in the mission statement.

The Campaign for Pubs will work with SIBA and other organisations who are opposing this change.

Commenting, Phil Saltonstall, Brewer Coordinator for the Campaign for Pubs and MD of Brass Castle Brewery and said:

“The Government’s decision to reduce the threshold at which Small Brewers Duty Relief starts to taper from 5000hL to 2100hL is deeply concerning and will mean that a number of small breweries will shoulder an increased tax burden.  This comes at a time when most small independent breweries have already missed out on the government support made available to their counterparts in the hospitality industry, in the way of cash grants or a Business Rates holiday. This looks like a win for larger and regional brewers, at the expense of the competitiveness of our nation’s smaller breweries and consumer choice at the bar.”

“We will work together with other interested bodies to lobby for small independent breweries to achieve a fairer deal when the technical consultation on this measure takes place in the Autumn.  It is now also extremely important that the government makes best use of the forthcoming alcohol duty review to address other inequities in the system of alcohol taxation, in order to support our nation’s small independent brewers and, by extension, our pubs”.

Commenting, Campaign Director of the Campaign for Pubs, Greg Mulholland said:

“The Government’s unexpected announcement on Small Brewers’ Relief is a body blow to many of the nation’s excellent small breweries. It is frankly extraordinary that at a time when small brewers have suffered a huge loss of trade due to Covid-19, that the Government should announce that they are pulling the rug from under them. This will cause small breweries to close and longer term will reduce consumer choice. We back introducing tapering so that there is no longer a cliff edge for brewers expanding over 5000 hL but this must not be done at the expense of small and microbreweries who have created a revolution in British brewing. The Campaign for Pubs stands with our smaller brewers and we will continue to call on the Government to think again unless it wants to be responsible for closing many breweries and reversing the British brewing boom”.

Dawn Hopkins, Vice-Chair of the Campaign for Pubs and licensee of the Rose, Norwich said:

“This is another bad decision from the Government that shows that it only listens to the larger corporate voices and ignores the voice of small business. Just two weeks after offering huge amounts of taxpayer support to McDonalds and Wetherspoons whilst giving no support to thousands of smaller pubs, now the Government has given into lobbying from a group of regional brewers who are seeking to pull up the drawbridge and kill off smaller competition. This is a double whammy for pubs like mine that specialise in great beer from small local breweries. The Campaign for Pubs shares the anger and dismay of smaller breweries and the pubs, micropubs and taprooms who support them and we urge the Government to think again”.

ENDS 

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