Autumn Budget 2021

Best budget for pubs in a generation?

By Ed Bedington contact

- Last updated on GMT

Is this the best budget for pubs in years?

Related tags: Budget, Legislation, Beer, Cider, Wine, Spirits, Pub

Despite all the leaks, from a government that makes the Titanic look like a viable operation, there were still a few rabbits in Rishi Sunak’s hat as he stood up in Parliament today (27 October 2021).

And some, in particular, very much targeted towards the beleaguered pub sector, something the Chancellor even acknowledged.

The 5% cut on duty for draught beer and cider is being touted as the biggest cut in 50 years, and was probably more than campaigners were expecting to get - and interestingly, it’s been couched in terms that will directly benefit pub operators over their supermarket rivals, something that many across the trade will be applauding.

There’s been considerable calls from the trade to level the playing field when it comes to sales of alcohol between on and off trade, and while the seesaw has hardly swung in the on-trades favour, we might be able to touch our toes to the ground just about now.

A 50% cut in business rates for a year will be a welcome relief to the trade as well, unless that process is fudged, giving them some much needed breathing space in the wake of recent challenges, and further talks of reform will also be welcome. Sadly the cap at £110,000 may mean, yet again, that some operators miss out. The irony of missing out because of a system that unfairly sets the level too high in the first place is not lost on me either.

However, when it comes to change, not wishing to be cynical, we’ve heard talks of reform in the past and it's either never amounted to much or been kicked into the long grass. We need to have a genuine and honest appraisal of the hugely flawed business rates, ideally in the breathing space the Chancellor has granted the sector.

The last thing we need to see is the discount period lapse and the sector plunged once more back into an unfair system that makes little sense and penalises successful operators.

No news on VAT

Less exciting for wine and spirits operations, no cuts, but at least a freeze on duty which might pale in comparison to the more generous offers to beer and cider.

And sadly, no mention of VAT reductions or freezes, which could be a potential source of friction down the line, and one to keep a watch on.

But interesting to see a Government that appears to actually be aware of the challenges the sector is facing and might even be listening, and more importantly acting.

As ever, the devil will be in the detail, and there may be some boobytraps in the midst but for now, for many in the trade, that’s probably the best budget they’ve heard in generations.

The pub sector has demonstrated, in the last 18 months, how important a role we play in society, culturally and economically and if that is finally being acknowledged by Government then that is a major step in the right direction.

We need to keep that attention and focus as we move forward, because, while the announcements made today are to be welcomed, we’ve still got serious challenges on the road ahead and while we’ve proven our sector is adaptive and resilient, a helping hand is always going to be welcome.

Related topics: Legislation

Related news