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Last week's Budget shows just how clueless politicans are about pressures on licensees, says David Elliott Well, just over a week on from Alistair...

Last week's Budget shows just how clueless politicans are about pressures on licensees, says David Elliott

Well, just over a week on from Alistair Darling's maiden speech as Chancellor, how do we all feel?

Our industry has been battered once again by politicians who have simply no idea whatsoever of the enormous pressures on licensees up and down the country. It's nothing to do with health, binge drinking or the apparent increases in antisocial behaviour -

far from it, the Government's Budget for 2008 is all about "lifestyle taxation".

So the lobbyists who have so tirelessly made alcohol the new devil in recent weeks have got what they asked for - higher taxation on alcohol - but not for the reasons they wanted.

People will still drink alcohol and they will most certainly be looking out for the cheaper options to do so. Haven't we made the incredible reduced pricing frenzy on alcohol all the more voracious as buyers seek a bargain? Or, worst of all, they'll hunt for the higher abv products so as to get more for their money.

The bottom line is, of course, that our industry through the various responsible bodies (and I take my share of the blame for this) has no real influence whatsoever over politicians who ride roughshod over us.

The industry will now contribute in excess of £23bn (that's twenty three billion pounds!) and almost 30% of every pint sold is made up of tax of one sort or another. I have no doubt that a number of pubs will go to the wall as businesses will be unprofitable for both licensees and pubcos, as customers will vote with their feet and stay at home.

I have a real concern that politicians see the pub industry through behaviour they witness in town centres on a Friday and Saturday night. Putting 4p on a pint will simply not change that behaviour in the slightest. The same applies to the recent publication of the review of the 2003 Licensing Act, yellow/red cards, three to two strikes and you are out - what does all this mean? I believe these yellow cards are alcohol disorder zones by the back door.

I just don't understand why local authorities and the police - who currently have all the powers they need - do not deal with the pubs that allow underage drinking, crime and disorder and close them down.

You can then allow the 99% of all hard-working licensees of pubs and bars to get on with their job and not be subject to a constant threat of prosecution.

These licensees currently operate under a massive layer of legislation and I would just like politicians and police to recognise what a great job they do. Get off their backs and help them because if you don't, you

will see more boarded pubs on every street corner.

be warned.

Finally, congratulations to Wales (I can't believe

I am saying this) for a great Six Nations grand slam.

This has been a fantastic tournament with all the matches shown live on the BBC and great times for

our industry. If you didn't take advantage, do so next time. It makes great viewing and it's free!

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