Julian Grocock: Pubs minister is starting to tax me

Related tags Brewing Alcoholic beverage Bob neill

After five minutes in the job, Bob Neill is already taxing my patience, and I want to try and build a bridge before we go any further. There were...

After five minutes in the job, Bob Neill is already taxing my patience, and I want to try and build a bridge before we go any further.

There were lots of warm and cosy words in Mr Neill's article​ - I got such a rosy glow I thought I was back in the snug of one of my all-time favourite pubs. Except it's closed. That wasn't Bob's fault, but I admit I found little in what he said - despite his protestations to the contrary - to suggest a radical departure from the dismal efforts of his predecessors. Nothing that's happened so far under the coalition looks likely to prevent the boarding-up of a few thousand more much-loved community locals.

It's good of the government to take action to allow pubs to stay as pubs and to facilitate their takeover by residents' co-operatives. But how will being '...able to save struggling pubs...rather than seeing them empty and derelict...' magically turn them into viable businesses?

Apparently the administration has now delivered on Bob's promise to ban the below-cost selling of alcohol. At the time I couldn't really summon up the enthusiasm to comment on such a limp effort, even though that's the sort of thing I'm paid to do. This paper has said it all at least as well as I could, but I will add one thing: the notion that top quality British-grown ingredients and the skilled labour of the thousands of people employed in brewing have no actual value absolutely appals me.

However, although I deplore the cynical approach of supermarkets to alcohol retailing, I'd like to stress that I see the real work of the Pubs Minister and his colleagues as doing something positive to support pubs' commercial prospects - like cutting VAT for on-trade sales.

I have another suggestion: Mr Neill, if you're really so proud to have scrapped the proposed 'cider tax', do something similar for beer! It's still the drink at the heart of most on-trade businesses, but even small brewers who qualify for full PBD relief pay more tax per pint than is levied on that well known huge cider brand with the misty-eyed Irish heritage.

The decision to persist with the above-inflation duty escalator impacts harshly across the brewing industry - especially on those with no PBD - and consequently it contributes to the crippling of pubs.

Don't just talk the talk, Bob. And please don't take offence at my words of criticism. David and Nick said much worse about each other before the election, so I hope there's every chance we'll become the best of friends in our own constructive coalition for pubs and beer!

If all you tax is my patience, I can live with that.

Related topics Legislation

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