A party spokeswoman revealed the annual fee for “alcohol licences” for smaller pubs with a rateable value of up to £33,000 would be frozen in the next parliament if the Tories triumphed.
“That would cover the majority of pubs in the country — at least 32,000 out of approximately 45,000”, the spokeswoman told the PMA.
Premises licence costs vary dependent on a pub’s rateable value. “Depending on the exact rateable value of the pub, this means the licence will be frozen at £100 or £180,” she added.
Senior industry figures welcomed the move, with Kate Nicholls, chief executive of the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers saying it provided certainty for operators as they plan for the future.
She said: “The eating and drinking-out sector is characterised by a high proportion of SMEs operating on very tight net profit margins and every little helps when it comes to keeping the costs of doing business as low as possible.”
However, Nicholls called for clarity on what the proposal might mean for the cost of other licensing fees. Earlier this year, the Home Office ruled out allowing councils to set fees locally, which would have introduced universal increased caps.
Brigid Simmonds, chief executive of the British Beer & Pub Association, said: “Pubs are hugely important to local communities and more than 80% are small businesses. We look forward to seeing the detail of these policies, but measures that support community pubs — a vital part of our industry — are welcomed.”
The news came after the Conservatives announced they would establish a new pub loan fund to help support groups applying to run a pub as a community asset.
The £1m pot would enable local people to apply for small loans to support feasibility work, lawyers’ fees or materials for refurbishment. Loans would be offered for five to eight years at
commercial rates secured against the property. There would also be no penalty for early repayment.
The policy was welcomed by environment secretary Liz Truss. “The announcement is great news for rural communities trying to protect the last surviving pub in their village. I believe assets like pubs, village halls, [and] post offices form such a crucial aspect of community life that I am keen to ensure as much assistance [as possible] is given in protecting these vital services,” she said.
At the time of the PMA going to press, the Conservatives could not confirm whether the pledges would be contained in the party’s election manifesto, due to be published on Tuesday 20 April.