Brighton Council seeks VAT rise for off-licence sales

By Ewan Turney

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Drinking culture Alcoholism Retailing Brighton

Supermarkets: cheap booze
Supermarkets: cheap booze
Brighton & Hove City Council is the first local authority to call for the Government to set differential rates of VAT for the on and off-trades to help combat the cheap booze fuelling binge drinking.

In a letter to the Home Secretary, signed by council chief executive John Barradell, licensing committee chair Lizzie Deane and director of public health Tom Scanlon, the council calls for a differential VAT rate for pubs and supermarkets.

The call is in line with the Publican’s Morning Advertiser’s campaign for a cut in VAT to 5% for pubs.

The letter notes that “in-creased affordability within the retail trade (shops and supermarkets) is blamed for street drinking, pre-loading and binge drinking”, but that it is “virtually impossible to establish a link between alcohol misuse and specific off-sale retail outlets”.

It added: “As individual outlets cannot be targeted effectively, more general pricing controls are required.

“We urge you to adopt differential pricing of alcohol as a course of action.”

Councillor Deane said: “A lot of work is going on in Brighton & Hove to enforce licensing regulations and deal with concerns about alcohol, but we cannot
control prices in supermarkets and shops that lead people to ‘pre-load’ on cheap alcohol before they go out for the night.

“This is a national issue — it is not unique to Brighton & Hove — which is why we are calling on the Government to increase the VAT on alcohol sold in off-licences, shops and supermarkets, to make it less affordable.

“We are also supporting different VAT levels for on and off-licence sales. Sales of alcohol from on-licensed premises are more controlled — people are drinking in a regulated environment and are not served more alcohol if they are drunk.”

Nick Griffin, spokesman for the Brighton & Hove Licensees Association, welcomed the support. “For too long the on-trade has been held responsible for problems not of its making, while the real culprits in the off-trade have turned a blind eye.

“At last an enlightened city council has recognised where some of the issues lie and is prepared to back positive action to differentiate between the on and off-trades.

“Different VAT rates between the on and off-trades will help promote responsible alcohol retailing, favouring the on-trade where alcohol is sold and consumed in a supervised environment.”

The PMA’s petition to cut VAT has reached 3,308 signatures. Sign up at

Related topics Licensing law Legislation

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