Campaign for Pubs
Top-up grants for pubs are welcome but not enough and must not be a one-off if lockdown goes on beyond mid-February
The Campaign for Pubs have been spearheading the #SupportPubsNOW campaign, with the support of ‘The Pub Landlord‘ Al Murray, calling for an urgent package for pubs, brewers and other affected suppliers. The #SupportPubsNOW petition has nearly 15,000 signatures https://www.change.org/p/uk-government-devolved-governments-administrations-saveourpubs-with-an-urgent-support-package-supportpubsnow
The one-off ‘top-up’ grants for closed businesses announced today are as follows, with money provided to local authorities in England and to devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
- £4,000 for businesses with a rateable value of £15,000 or under
- £6,000 for businesses with a rateable between £15,000 & £51,000
- £9,000 for businesses with a rateable value of over £51,000
The top-up grants, which are taxable, are on top on the ongoing grants for closed businesses of £1,300, £2000 or £3000 every 28 days, but have been announced as a one-off, regardless of how long the new lockdown lasts. This has led to concerns that if pubs remain closed into March or even April, that the sums per week will be completely inadequate to stop hardship and closures.
Many pubs and publicans are already in debt, with the loss of most of 2020 and the crucial December trading period and with fixed costs, especially property costs, causing a huge problem, especially where commercial landlords and pub companies have continued to charge unsustainable levels of rent, including in some cases disgracefully charging full rent to publicans with no trade.
Many pubs and breweries have also been again faced with significant loss of stock, with a series of last-minute decision to close pubs down, first of all on December 16th shutting many pubs the week before Christmas, then shutting many more on 30th December with just nine hours notice and then closing all pubs indefinitely and banning takeaway, when many pubs had stocked up with cask ale to offer a takeaway service, that they are now not allowed to operate.
There is also the spectre of deferred VAT payments looming in March and the Campaign for Pubs is calling for the Government not only to defer these again but to reduce them, by allowing them to use their corporation tax losses incurred during the pandemic to offset other tax liabilities, including outstanding VAT.
The Campaign for Pubs are also calling on the Government to extend the business rates holiday for another year, and to end the current discrimination against wet-led pubs by extending the reduced VAT rate of 5% to ALL pub sales, including sales of alcohol rather than just food, in order to give thousands of hard-pressed local community pubs a desperately needed boost.
To make the current situation even worse, many pubs have not yet received grants from the second lockdown in November. There is a very mixed picture of how effectively and fairly councils have operated, with delays by some councils leaving pubs on the brink. Plus despite pubs and other licensed premises being unable to trade normally or at all, councils continue to charge full costs for licenses and even more outrageously, charge the late night levy, even when pubs and other venues have been subject to curfew.
The Campaign for Pubs also are calling on the Government to allow pubs to offer takeaway services, as in previous lockdowns. The Campaign says the Government must change their position on this urgently, as they did in the November lockdown, initially banning takeaways before reversing that decision. The Campaign believes that rather than once again scapegoating and unfairly singling out pubs, the Government should instead urge people not to break the rules in any setting, whether whilst taking away cans from the supermarket or coffees from Costa.
So the Campaign for Pubs are calling for:
- A statutory rent code to stop unreasonable rents that don’t reflect trading conditions, including the right to a rent review and a presumption of no commercial rent during forced closures.
- A business rates holiday in 2021/22
- VAT of 5% on all pub/hospitality sales, including on all drinks, to support ALL pubs (not just places that sell food)
- A tailored package of support, including business rates relief, for small brewers and other suppliers whose businesses are threatened by pubs being closed
- A reduction in outstanding VAT bills by allowing corporation tax to losses to be offset against this.
- All license fees and late-night levy fees charged only for periods when normal opening was possible late (so refunds made where pubs have been charged for periods they could not trade).
- Pub takeaways to be allowed.
Dawn Hopkins, Vice-Chair of the Campaign for Pubs said:
“The announcement of ‘top up’ grants for hospitality will give some hope to publicans who have been left teetering on the edge with the lack of financial support given up until now, but hope isn’t enough to keep our pubs from closing for good. We have been struggling for months through restrictive tiers and lockdowns with inadequate support, with many pubs still paying full rent but with decimated trade. We have missed out on our main trading period, Christmas, and our suppliers including small breweries have suffered immeasurably too.
“We have the spectre of deferred VAT payments looming in March as well as uncertainty of how long we have to try to survive on the amounts offered.
“The reality is the financial support given has not been good enough and has not been distributed efficiently, with some publicans still waiting for grant payments promised for November.
“If the government truly cares about our pubs, about us opening our doors and trading again when we can, then it needs to listen to publicans and act now to stop pub closures and hardship for our families”.
Paul Crossman, Chair of the Campaign for Pubs said:
“The announcement today by the Chancellor of additional grant funding is welcome and will provide some relief to many pubs, but it does not go far enough, especially as the Government has chosen to restrict the ability of pubs to provide takeaway services under this new lockdown, thus cutting off a vital lifeline for many local community pubs.
“The Government needs to get a comprehensive grip on the situation with a fully coordinated support package before huge numbers of valuable and highly viable pubs are lost for good. This will involve acting to save thousands of small community businesses, rather than simply producing more policies which primarily benefit large food-led chains and pub owning companies.
“Publicans and their suppliers need to know there is real light at the end of this tunnel, and that the Government cares enough about the jobs and services they provide to take every necessary measure to ensure their survival. For example, property cost arrears remain the largest and most pressing single existential threat to most pubs, so the Government must now replace its useless voluntary Code of Practice with mandatory measures to protect small businesses from unfair demands by property owners or lenders”.
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