A Labour MP has written to the Chancellor urging him to support pubs in the Budget — and called for action over pricing and the pubco-tenant relationship.
City of York MP Hugh Bayley wrote to Alistair Darling following a survey he conducted of pubs and working men's clubs in his constituency.
The survey showed that licensees were concerned about four main issues:
• Duty. Licensees were concerned about the combined 17% rise last year. Bayley has asked the Chancellor to drop duty when VAT returns to its previous level.
• Minimum pricing. Most licensees believed the biggest contributory factor for a fall in profits was the sale of cheaper supermarket alcohol and an overwhelming 96% of licensees did not want supermarkets to be able to sell alcohol at cheap rates.
• Loss-leader promotions. The majority of licensees did not want alcohol to be used in loss leader promotions by off-licences, supermarkets or bars.
• Pubcos. Many of the licensees believed their rents have increased disproportionately to the cost of living over the last year. One licensee said: "Its like me renting you a house for a market rent but telling you that you can only do your food shop in Harrods ie top prices".
"There have been many reports of pubs facing financial hardships and even closing and I sent out the survey to find out why the licensees think this is happening and what they would like the government to do to offer more support," said Bayley.
"When VAT was reduced, beer duty was increased, this meant that people were still paying about the same amount for a pint. When VAT returns to its normal level people will notice a difference in the price of beer and I think the Government should look at reducing beer duty in the Budget.
He added: "I have already raised the issue of contracts between licensees and pub companies in Parliament during last month's Tourism debate. At present landlords are not getting a fair deal from their contacts with the pub companies and this needs to be looked at.
"I also want the government to look at the pricing of alcohol, supermarkets and some of the big pub chains are selling alcohol at prices publicans cannot begin to compete with."