With the general election looming, it would seem that the current Government can certainly count on the support of the pub sector when it comes to polling day.
The bookies tip to win:
The latest odds on a party winning an overall majority in June:
Liberal Democrats 100/1
NB: The SNP was not included because it does not intend to stand in enough seats to win an overall majority (odds sourced from Ladbrokes 4 May 2017)
A snap survey by The Morning Advertiser (MA) has revealed a strong bias towards the Conservative Party.
As MA went to press, more than 61% of respondents indicated they would be voting Tory on 8 June.
Labour is unlikely to be able to count on much support from the pub sector with just 16% of the vote, while the Liberal Democrats limped across the line in third place with 11%.
Comments from the survey would suggest that Prime Minister Theresa May certainly has the greater degree of confidence from within the sector, with strong personal support from operators, while many expressed concern at the possibility of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn leading the Brexit negotiations.
Many expressed the hope that the election results would give May a stronger mandate to govern, along with a greater majority. Others expressed frustration at the lack of choice in the situation, with one stating: “I am not Conservative by ideal, but what other choice do we have as a country? This is a very important time for Britain – with Brexit, we need a strong government.”
Just 1% of our respondents said they were not intending to cast a vote in the upcoming election, while only 2% said they were going to vote for the UK Independence Party.
A few operators said they were going to vote tactically, mainly down to issues with Brexit and seeking to undermine pro-Brexit local MPs.
When it comes to the main issues that operators would like to see politicians get to grips with, Brexit was high on the agenda – 86% stated it was an area of importance to them.
Business rate high on agenda
Brexit was high on the agenda – 85% stating it was an area of importance to them
Business rates reform was the next most important issue that pub operators want to see the future government tackle, with 50% responding on that, while the debate over the rights of EU workers in the wake of Brexit was also of concern, with 35% of operators flagging that as an issue.
Almost a quarter (24%) said they would welcome a move to introduce minimum wage rises in line with UK economic performance, others expressed a fear that a Labour win could lead to unsustainable increases in the minimum wage, which would impact heavily on pubs, leading to closures.
VAT is a hot issue for many operators but was lower down the list with only 35% of operators saying that reform of the much-maligned tax system was important to them, meanwhile 27% of operators said they would like to see MPs push for a reduced tax on lower ABV beers.
Meanwhile, issues surrounding the pubs code was way down the list for most operators, with just 9% flagging it as important.
So, it’s clear where the lines of loyalty lie within the pub sector. It will be a case of wait and see until 8 June as to whether the mood of the wider public follows that of the pub operators.
The pub manifesto:
What publicans want to see from politicians campaigning for their vote ahead of the 8 June polling day.
The best Brexit deal for business
■ A commitment to a free-trade deal with the EU to prevent steep inflationary price rises for UK food and beer as well as protecting UK exports to the EU
■ Secure the rights of EU nationals working in the pub sector to remain in the UK after Brexit
Business rates reforms
■ A fairer business-rates system to put pubs on a level playing field with supermarkets and online retailers and incentivise growth and investment in the hospitality sector
■ More frequent revaluations
■ Link rates to the Consumer Price Index from 2018, then move to a flat rate from 2020
■ Improve transitional rates relief
Minimum wage change
■ Link minimum wage rises to UK economic performance – this would prevent wage rises hitting businesses when the economy is underperforming
Beer duty cut
■ Pub industry campaigners have called for this measure to prevent beer costs rising in line with inflation
VAT reforms for pub food
■ Reduce VAT for food served in pubs. Supermarket meals are zero rated for VAT, while pubs can pay 20% for simple food served on a plate
Tax on beers by ABV
■ Introduce a reduced tax on lower ABV beers – a lower tax would support investment in this growing product area
Licensing Act reforms
■ Overhaul processes for granting pubs planning permission
■ Abolish late-night levies and early-morning restriction orders
■ Introduce an ‘agent-of-change’ principle to prevent licensed venues being forced to pay for sound proofing for newly built homes
More flexibility for the apprenticeship levy
■ The levy came into force on 6 April 2017, but employers already think it needs revision to make it more flexible. For example, the requirement for 20% of training to take place off-the-job may be deterring some businesses from using the training to full effect
Review of national insurance payments
■ With the Chancellor’s U-turn on changes to national insurance (NI) contributions for the self-employed, election campaigners will need to make sure any NI plans don’t unduly penalise licensees or employers