Within Labour’s manifesto, officially published yesterday (16 May), the party pledged to set up a national review of local pubs to examine the causes for widespread pub closures, as well as establishing a joint taskforce that will consider future sustainability.
However, Nuttal – who claims to be a long-time advocate of UKIP’s Save the Pub Campaign – said Labour’s plans would not tackle the decline of pubs, adding: “They will do anything but that".
“Protecting pubs from becoming supermarkets, while at the same time reinforcing the supermarkets' ability to undercut pub prices is fantasy economics, and a cruel fantasy at that,” said Nuttal. "Ever-rising beer duty is driving pubs out of business.”
He claimed that Labour's plan would kill pubs through tax, although the manifesto doesn’t mention introducing specific taxes for the industry. Nuttal also warned that “pubcos and publicans would be condemned to penury by ever-rising beer duty” adding that pub owners wouldn’t be able to sell their failed assets if all pubs were given more protection from redevelopment. For example, if all pubs were made assets of community value (ACV).
Labour’s manifesto does not mention universal ACVs, although it does say it will give communities more power to shape their town centres, by strengthening powers for pubs and independent shops, and promoting measures to decrease high street vacancies.
“On a case-by-case basis, it is good that pubs can be listed but it is not always the best solution,” said Nuttall.
Policy makers ‘confused’
Nuttall said that the party was “treating pubs like state-owned community centres”, and that "Labour's policy makers may be confused, as despite their name, public houses are private enterprises first and foremost”.
"What brewers, publicans and pubgoers alike need is a sensible plan to save the pub, Labour is not it,” he continued.
The British Beer & Pub Association, Society of Independent Brewers and other industry organisations have welcomed pledges in Labour’s manifesto that would directly affect licensees.
In response, Teresa Pearce, Shadow Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, said: “Labour has guaranteed a real-terms cap on beer duties and will give unprecedented powers back to communities to protect their local pubs.”