Sadly, it's not a joke Mr Hunt

By Ed Bedington

- Last updated on GMT

Budget offers puns but no support

Related tags Government Budget Finance Legislation Beer Energy Vat Business rates Ofgem Chancellor

“British ale is warm, but the duty on a pint is frozen” were the words uttered by Chancellor Jeremy Hunt and the flippancy of his remark sums up the level of care this Government appears to have for the hospitality sector.

The fact pubs and bars are still set to face an overall tax hike with alcohol duty​ to rise in line with inflation renders the Chancellor’s comments not only unfunny, but also like many of this Government's recent actions and claims not exactly accurate.

Is the decision to differentiate on duty between pubs and supermarkets good? Yes, but with such a gulf in costs 11p is a drop in the barrel and we’re reliant on the cut being passed on by the suppliers, which they’ve always been so keen to do on previous reductions…

On top of this, attaching the word Brexit to the phrase “pubs guarantee” should be enough to send a cold shiver down the spine of the sector.

Given the success of Brexit so far to date, I wonder if the irony of the inclusion of that term by the Chancellor was intended, or they’re just that ​oblivious to the realities affecting the country at the moment.

Some of the measures to help consumers are being applauded to help put money in people’s pockets and restore confidence, and maybe I’m just being cynical, but the way things are going, those confident consumers might find it quite hard trying to find places to dispose of that extra income.

Requests ignored

The key things pubs and the wider hospitality sector has been screaming for – a VAT cut, business rates reform​ and support and help with the scandalous energy situation​ – have been roundly ignored. Sadly no great surprise.

Meanwhile, Ofgem appears to have only just woken up to the situation hospitality is facing. Speaking at a UKHospitality (UKH) dinner last night, Greater Manchester night-time economy adviser Sacha Lord branded the Ofgem letter​ to Hunt an insult, as it indicated they would only be filing a report in the summer.

UKH’s Kate Nicholls took a more nuanced view, welcoming the fact that Ofgem was warning that energy companies must be “held accountable” by Government. 

And while the threat of action is welcome, it does remain a threat and the suggestion of action some months down the line will be cold comfort to operators that will be forced to close by the rapacious energy costs between now and then.

Overall, there wouldn’t have been many that were expecting a great deal in the Budget, and they haven’t been disappointed.

Pubs are an acknowledged part of our cultural heritage but this Government seems committed to a course of cultural vandalism.

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