The number of pubs in England and Wales fell below 40,000 for the first time as the excessive taxation applied by successive governments continued to bring down an industry that has been traditionally good at keeping large numbers of people in work.
Driving round your average town, it is impossible to miss buildings which were clearly pubs in a former guise – the lucky ones near me are trading as supermarket-branded convenience stores, Indian restaurants and even an estate agency. Others have been converted to flats, whilst the unlucky ones stand derelict. Of these, the numbers that remain untouched by fire begs the question whether every pub company employs an arsonist?
Why is this happening? All the excuses in the world can be made – change of people’s habits, other forms of entertainment, trouble and drugs causing closures, and more, but the real reason is TAX.
Wetherspoon’s Finance Director, Ben Whitley, said “Pub companies pay enormous amounts of tax, but that is not always well understood by the companies themselves or by commentators, since most taxes are hidden in a financial fog.”
It is far from being just alcohol duty and VAT – which in themselves means your drink is being taxed twice already, a staggering 20p of the average pint goes to pay business rates. Given the prominent location of the pubs themselves and the fact that many have a car park of some sorts, these are some of the highest Business Rates going.
Pubs now have to contend with such diverse taxes and slot machine duty, sugar tax and climate change levies.
The recent mooted VAT cut to 17.5% will help, but won’t even up the tax disparity between businesses such as bowling alleys, cinemas et al. What is needed is a comprehensive reduction in the punitive, vindictive even, taxes applied to what was once a flourishing sector.
It has been brought to its knees by the leeches of taxation. Now is the time to remove them before they suck out the remaining blood. Never mind the crown on a pint glass, it's time Boris did something that would have a tangible benefit.
Martin Day – Party Secretary