As readers of The Yorkshire Post know, our pubs are not only appealing to tourists, they are vital parts of our communities – they are the heart of the town, the soul of the country, and the centre of village life.
They still enjoy vast popular support and too often are the only place left where we can all meet, enjoy a few pints of great Yorkshire beer with friends and family, and put the pressures of life behind us.
But despite this, pubs themselves have never been under greater pressure – with increased costs, ever higher taxes and growing clamour for more restrictions by the temperance movement masquerading as guardians of our public health. it all adds up to make the life of a publican more difficult.
Beer and pubs more than pay their way in contributing to the public purse. In Yorkshire and the Humber alone, we contribute £1.8bn to the economy, employing 90,000 people (45 per cent of them under 25) and pay a whopping £1.3bn in taxation. Every pub boosts its local economy by an average of £80,000 per year.
It is staggering to think that £1 in every £3 spent in the pub goes straight to the taxman! Hard-pressed British beer drinkers pay 40 per cent of all Europe’s beer duty despite drinking only 12 per cent of the beer consumed in Europe. Indeed, in Europe, only Finland and Ireland hit their beer drinkers more than our Chancellor hits us with hefty beer tax rates – we pay almost 12 times more than German beer drinkers.
As a business, that beer tax bill comes straight off our bottom line. It means we literally have less money to invest in our pubs, in sustaining the quality and range of our beers, and in keeping our business competitive in the face of all the other cost pressures we face.
That is why we are supporting consumers in backing the Long Live the Local Campaign as part of Britain’s Beer Alliance – a coalition of brewers, pub owners and beer drinkers – in asking the Chancellor to abandon his plans to increase beer tax even further in the Budget.
We recognise that the Chancellor has some tough calls to make as he prepares the Budget, particularly given that he has declared an official end to austerity and committed to a substantial increase in public funding for the NHS.
His room for manoeuvre may seem limited – his options few and far between given the difficult balancing act he has to perform in reassuring the markets and calming his nervous backbenchers.
Having said that, I would like to offer him a little advice in the hope that he will also want to offer readers of The Yorkshire Post some reasons to be cheerful.
The Prime Minister made it plain in her recent speech to the Conservative Party Conference that her Government was backing business. We hope the Chancellor keeps to that word in supporting beer and pubs in his Budget.
Tim Dewey is chairman of Yorkshire Beer & Pub Association. He is also chief executive of Timothy Taylor’s.