Thousands of pubs ‘left in the lurch’ by Government, says Liberal Democrat leader

By Georgina Townshend contact

- Last updated on GMT

In the lurch: Vince Cable says pubs are being faced with "crippling tax hikes"
In the lurch: Vince Cable says pubs are being faced with "crippling tax hikes"
The leader of the Liberal Democrats has said the Government has left “thousands of pubs in the lurch” as research from the party revealed at least 4,500 pubs eligible for business rates relief are still awaiting payment, with a total of £4.54m still outstanding.

Chancellor Philip Hammond announced last March that pubs hit with higher business rates would receive a £1,000 annual discount, if their rateable value was under £100,000.

However, six months on, four in 10 councils in England haven’t started distributing the relief, with many blaming software problems, the absence of clear guidance from the Government and lack of time to put local schemes in place, according to the Liberal Democrats.

"In Government, Lib Dems fought to secure legislation to ensure protection of pubs from unfair behaviour by the big pubcos which supply their beer. It would be unforgivable if the same pubs are now forced out of business by the Government’s own incompetence.”

- Liberal Democrat leader, Vince Cable

On the research, Liberal Democrat leader Vince Cable said: ​“Thousands of pubs faced with crippling tax hikes are being left in the lurch by this Government.

“This rushed scheme has been plagued with problems from the start. Local councils have had to deal with software glitches, a lack of clear guidance from ministers and little time to prepare.  

“Pubs form the bedrock of local communities across the country, but many now worry they will have to close their doors.”

Temporary sticking plaster

Instead of the £1,000 “temporary sticking plaster”, Cable said that to properly protect pubs business rate rises should be capped at 12.5%.

"In Government, Lib Dems fought to secure legislation to ensure protection of pubs from unfair behaviour by the big pubcos which supply their beer.  

“It would be unforgivable if the same pubs are now forced out of business by the Government’s own incompetence.”

Statistics from the party’s research show that 150 local authorities have started distributing funds, with a total of £6.7m paid out to just over 6,500 pubs.

This means that an estimated 4,500 pubs are continuing to wait for relief from 100 local authorities that are still finalising schemes.

Of these, 41% are waiting for software to be updated or tested, 21% are still to give final approval to schemes, 15% are in the process of contacting local eligible pubs and 7% blame delays on a lack of clear guidance from the Government.

The results come after the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) warned recently that 21 pubs are closing each week in Britain​, and that higher business rates are the latest "ticking time bomb" to devastate the sector.

Some 250 out of 327 local councils in England replied to Freedom of Information requests by the Liberal Democrats.

Reasons given for councils that have not distributed funding to pubs:

  • Awaiting software update: 41 (41%)
  • Awaiting council approval: 21 (21%)
  • Contacting eligible ratepayers: 15 (15%)
  • Delayed guidance from Government: 7 (7%)
  • Scheme still being finalised: 6 (6%)
  • No reason given: 6 (6%)
  • Consultation still ongoing: 2 (2%)
  • Distributing general relief funding first: 2 (2%) 

Related topics: Legislation

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