Devastated licensee warns rates reform "too late" as scrapped retail relief & living wage pushes pubs to brink

By Emily Sutherland

- Last updated on GMT

Licensee Karen James says she is faced with letting two members of staff go
Licensee Karen James says she is faced with letting two members of staff go

Related tags Business rates Public house Inn

Long promised reform to business rates cannot come soon enough for one licensee, who warned the double whammy of higher rates bills and the national living wage is pushing many pubs to the brink.

Karen James, who runs freehold community pub the Severn View Inn in Lydney, Gloucestershire, spoke of her “devastation” after being told that due to the Chancellor scrapping retail relief in last year’s Autumn Statement, her monthly rates bill will go from £522 to £678 from April, an increase of 30%.

“The Government has delayed business rates reform. Why have we had to wait so many years for reform to give us a fair system?” she said.

“This is unsustainable. Is the Government deliberately trying to shut us all down? I can’t compete with supermarkets and now to shoot business rates up this much at the same time as introducing the new national living wage — it’s such a massive jump in costs. I work more than 70 hours a week and I can’t even draw a salary.”

Duty cut 'by the by'

Details of a major review into the business rates system will be unveiled in next week’s Budget.

A distressed James said she was now faced with laying off two members of staff and closing the pub every Monday in a bid to manage the extra costs. “I don’t want to leave a trade I love and that I’ve been in for 18 years. I don’t just serve pints, I’m a social worker.

"There’s one gentlemen who, if he didn’t come here, he wouldn’t ever see anyone,” she added. James said that although she understood trade bodies were pressing the Government on business rates reform, it was frustrating to see the British Beer & Pub Association’s campaign calling for a cut to beer duty in the Budget when “there are so many other issues”.

She said: “A penny off duty is by the by, the main issue for the trade is business rates — I don’t care what anybody says.”

Trade bodies warned that when cuts to retail relief were first announced, 75% of pubs would be landed with a yearly tax increase of £1,500. One property expert said the hike could be the difference between “life and death” for some businesses.

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