One of the South West’s leading independent businessmen has today backed the national call for a freeze in beer tax in next month’s budget.
James Staughton, Managing Director of St Austell Brewery – one of the region’s biggest private employers - said proposed massive increases in beer tax are the “last thing” the trade needs.
He said pubs and brewers could not afford the planned 7% increase, which would be the result if the Government sticks to its policy of the beer duty tax escalator.
“Freezing beer tax would help St Austell Brewery grow and contribute to the wider economy, while halting pub closures and helping safeguard jobs,” said Mr Staughton.
A recent report by the British Beer and Pub Association showed 96,000 jobs in the South West depend on the pub and brewing trade.
The figures fuel concerns over the budget plans, which campaigners say would have a huge impact on wages, jobs and the economy in the South West.
Mr Staughton said: “This proves what we have known for generations – that pubs make an overwhelming contribution to the local economy and social fabric of the community.
“Pubs play a vital role in our economy and are often the hub of local communities, yet many are struggling to survive. Issues including record levels of beer tax and red tape need addressing if we are to help protect this great British institution and promote safe, responsible drinking.
“Since 1997, the Government has put up tax on a pint of beer by 60%. In the last two years alone, during the recession, it has risen by 26%, which has cost the hard-pressed beer and pub sector an extra £171 million in tax.
“We have called for the duty escalator to be scrapped and for duty levels to be considered in line with prevailing economic circumstances. This doesn’t just affect the Brewery, but the vast majority of our 174 pubs are run by tenants, which are small, self-employed businesses in their own right and are being hit harder all the time.
“At St Austell Brewery we are committed to ensuring that local pubs retain their special character and remain vibrant places, well placed to serve their communities in the years to come.”
Mr Staughton urged people to support their local pubs by signing up to the ‘I’m Backing the Pub’ pledge http://www.backthepub.com/
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