UKIP MEP on business rates: 'Don’t tax pubs to death'

By Daniel Woolfson

- Last updated on GMT

Bill Etheridge MEP: condemned "punitive" rates rises
Bill Etheridge MEP: condemned "punitive" rates rises

Related tags: Beer duty escalator, Public house

The UKIP MEP for the West Midlands has thrown his support behind the Association of Licenses Multiple Retailers' (ALMR) appeal for transitional relief to help with business rates rises.

Bill Etheridge MEP, a Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) member who previously called for the return of crown stamps on pint glasses​, said business rates rises risked undoing the “good work” of ending the beer duty escalator if they were too punitive.

He said: “Having just rid the industry of one punitive tax, the Government throws another in its path. The rise in business rates needs to be offset by falls in beer duty – a gradual transition.”

Progress at risk

Employment in the sector had grown by approximately 21,000 jobs since George Osborne scrapped the beer duty escalator in 2013, which could be once again put at risk with the introduction of new rates, he argued.

Rates rises could rack up an estimated £300m to £500m in costs to the hospitality industry, largely due to the fact that they are decided based on geography as well as turnover and many pubs and restaurants occupy prime city and town-centre real estate.

The Department for Communities & Local Government (DCLG) has argued that most businesses would not face sharp increases, but trade bodies believe the hospitality industry will be disproportionately affected.

The ALMR has written to Chancellor Philip Hammond calling for transitional relief for licensed premises – similar to that recently offered to broadband providers – when new rates are introduced in April.

Vocal pub advocate

Etheridge has been vocal with his views on the trade throughout his tenure as West Midlands MEP.

As well as demanding the return of crown stamps on pint glasses to replace CE marks that he said represented “European conformity”, he publicly slammed NewRiver Retail’s plans to demolish a Dudley pub​ and replace it with a Co-operative supermarket.

“Our pubs are the heartbeat of the community and should be cherished,” he said at the time. 

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