Matt Eley: How bad would Budget have been without industry campaign?

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Related tags: Chancellor george osborne, Public house

Perhaps the most disappointing thing about the Budget was the total lack of surprise at the action on alcohol delivered by Chancellor George Osborne....

Perhaps the most disappointing thing about the Budget was the total lack of surprise at the action on alcohol delivered by Chancellor George Osborne.

He spent roughly two seconds announcing the news that there would be no change to the previous administration's alcohol tax measures, meaning Alistair Darling's arbitrary creation of a duty escalator of two per cent above inflation will remain in place until at least 2015.

So that's a duty rise of about 7.2 per cent, or roughly 4p on a pint according to the British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA).

It takes the overall increase in duty since 2008 to a staggering 35 per cent - but did anyone expect anything different? Quite simply, no.

Despite the backdrop of various groups lobbying, sending out scores of press releases on a daily basis and, in one PR stunt, even delivering beers directly to the Chancellor it was widely anticipated that this is exactly what he would do.

In fairness, the campaigns were well argued and there appeared to be a more coordinated approach by the various organisations involved.

Yet still nothing changed.

So should everyone have bothered or would the industry have been hit even harder if the case for dropping the escalator had not been made?

Personally I think it is indicative of a government that likes to give the impression that it is listening to our trade but then just goes ahead and does what it pleases anyway.

'Alcohol is bad' say the health lobby and Daily Mail (apart from those contradictory 'red wine is good for you tales) thus there is only one thing that is ever going to happen to duty.

The BBPA dropped its 'Axe the Tax' campaign for that very reason and instead went for the 'I'm Backing the Pub - Give Beer a Break' line.

It is a much more positive effort and that is where the industry should be focusing its attentions.

Campaigns such the PubAid initiative to show how much the industry raises for charity collectively (see page 8) can send out a powerful message about the great things that pubs do.

Likewise Ed Davies of the recently formed Society of Licensee has said he would happily accept money from Enterprise Inns (see left) to fund a positive media campaign promoting pubs.

It remains to be seen if any cash is forthcoming but if it is why shouldn't he use it?

He knows he will get flack from the likes of Fair Pint for what they will see as a 'deal with the devil' but it is money that can be used for good so why not make the most of it.

Related topics: Legislation

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