Any hope of action on VAT had been written off a long time ago and concern was rising that the business rates relief was not going to be extended but, thankfully, that small sliver of support has been extended.
Although that said, with this Government, there’s always a but, and in this case, it’s the fact the standard multiplier rate will increase in line with inflation - as many pubs are subject to the standard rate, that’s a further kick in the teeth in a budget that really hasn’t delivered much other than increase costs.
A freeze in alcohol duty sounds great and I’m sure there will be the odd national newspaper crowing about how its campaign to save “our pubs” has been a great success but the reality is it does little to mitigate previous rises on a sector that rarely sees the benefit anyway. But I guess it’s better than an increase!
The biggest kicker for many will be the whopping 10% rise in the national living wage, which will disproportionately hammer pub and bar operators and certainly adds more cost than any of the other benefits Hunt and his team will be trumpeting.
This flies in the face of Government’s claims to be trying to reduce inflation, a bit like an arsonist telling you he’s called the fire brigade while throwing more petrol on the fire. You can’t say you’re trying to control inflation while increasing business cost, which will force unwanted price rises. No one wins.
It’s also a supremely cynical move by a Government in its death throes, desperately attempting to buy votes in a bid to cling onto power. Tax cuts to the employee, but not for the employer is another great example as the once famous “party of business” shows its true colours.
Reforms to planning and business tax to encourage investment is great, if only anyone was willing to invest, or had the money to invest!
Ultimately, this is a budget that has simply served to increase costs to a sector that desperately needed some relief.
As I said, expectations were low to start with and Jeremy Hunt has certainly limboed his way under them.