Chancellor Philip Hammond announced a series of measures designed to help the pub industry in his latest Spring Statement.
These included the announcement that, following a consultation last year, business rates revaluations would be brought forward from 2022 to 2021, bringing forward the following revaluation to 2024 as a result.
Hammond also announced a call for evidence on the impact of VAT and air passenger duty rates on the hospitality sector in Northern Ireland, increased funding for apprenticeships for small businesses and a consultation on reducing the use of plastics, including using tax incentives.
In response to these measures, UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls said: “There are some tentative steps here to support the sector but this is a missed opportunity to provide the decisive and positive action on business rates that hospitality desperately needs, and for which we have been calling.
“Bringing forward the revaluation will not provide the immediate support that businesses need unless it is accompanied by wide-scale reform beforehand.”
“A focus on taxing digital businesses is welcome but it needs to also tackle inequalities in business rates between digital companies and high street operators. If that is not addressed then businesses will continue to struggle against crippling rates bills, and jobs and investment will be at risk. UKHospitality will continue to push the Government to deliver on their promise of root-and-branch reform.
“A consultation on plastics provides an opportunity to highlight the proactive measures the sector is already taking to address the issue of waste, for which there is a real appetite from consumers. Businesses and trade bodies from across the sector are working together to help tackle the problem and reduce avoidable plastic waste.
“Change must come via positive voluntary action, rather than punitive legislation that penalises and burdens businesses without solving the problem. A consultation will give us an opportunity to ensure that the Government understands this and works with us.
“Consulting on possible VAT reduction in Northern Ireland is a welcome first step in addressing the significant barrier to growth posed by tourism VAT. We will engage closely and continue to push for a UK-wide reduction in VAT for tourism and hospitality businesses.”
'More that can be done'
BBPA chief executive Brigid Simmonds said: “As the leading voice for UK pubs, the BBPA has for some time been calling for a business rates system that allows for more frequent revaluations. This will mean that what amounts to a very burdensome tax on pubs better reflects the realities of their trading environment. As a sector we need to work with the Government to reduce the current unfairness in assessments which penalise pubs. Revising the criteria for pub valuation will be vital to the success of more frequent revaluations.
“A call for evidence on the impact of VAT on the hospitality and tourism sector in Northern Ireland is to be welcomed, as pubs are hugely important for the Ulster economy. I hope the Chancellor will consider extending this review to the UK as a whole, given that a third of the price of a pint in a pub goes to the taxman. The BBPA will work with Hospitality Ulster to ensure the economic work we have already undertaken on food and accommodation VAT makes a useful contribution to this study.
“The additional £80m support announced for small businesses to access apprenticeships will be welcomed by pubs, but there is still a need to review the use of the apprenticeship levy in the supply chain.
“The Chancellor’s decision to freeze tax on beer in the Autumn Budget is helping the Chancellor to meet his inflation target, but there is more that can be done. I hope the Chancellor will look to continue to bear down on beer tax levels to help our pubs when we come to the Autumn Budget.”