Wetherspoon's Tim Martin slams government over tax, binge drinking and red tape

From The Publican

By Hamish Champ , 13-Mar-2009

Related topics: General News, Company & City News

JD Wetherspoon chairman Tim Martin has slammed the government over its tax and regulation policies which he believes will have "predictable and inevitable effects on employment levels and tax income in the near and medium term".


Announcing the managed pub group's half year results, Martin called for taxes to be pegged at current levels or even reduced "for a considerable number of years".


Martin said the increase in alcohol duty would cost Wetherspoon an additional £14m in the current financial year, while new holiday entitlement legislation will add £4m to its wages bill.


"In order for the pub industry, and business in general, to prosper, taxes and social legislation imposed on businesses need to be reduced or to stay at current levels for a considerable number of years," he said.


Opportunistic 'tax grabs' and employee legislation to woo voters which businesses cannot afford will prove to be counter productive for the government, Martin added.


"Even the closure of one small pub results in a far greater loss of revenue to the government than it does to the publican or pub owner. Costs of taxes and regulations have gone too far," he added.


And Martin also took a swipe at the government's approach in tackling binge drinking.


"There is a genuine problem relating to binge drinking, but the issues are cultural ones and should be addressed on that basis.


"Attempts to crack down on pubs serving under 18 year olds are putting a huge and unjustified pressure on pubs, the police and other authorities, while exacerbating the underlying issues," he said.


Martin was speaking as Wetherspoon revealed first half turnover up 6.5 per cent to £468.7m, while like-for-like sales rose 1.9 per cent in the six months to January 25, 2009.


Operating profits before exceptionals rose 1.3 per cent to £46.8m, while pre-tax profits before exceptionals were up two per cent to £30.8m.


Wetherspoon said that in the six weeks to March 8, 2009, like-for-like sales increased by 1.9 per cent and total sales by 5.6 per cent.


The group announced it had secured funding of £20m from banking giant Abbey Santander and that it was on course to repay a US$140m bank debt this coming September from cash flow and "current facilities".

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