What will each political party do for pubs?

By Gary Lloyd

- Last updated on GMT

Votes are up for grabs: BBPA CEO Emma McClarkin talks about some of the general election manifestos (credit: Getty/Adam Webb)
Votes are up for grabs: BBPA CEO Emma McClarkin talks about some of the general election manifestos (credit: Getty/Adam Webb)

Related tags Government Business rates Legislation Conservative party Labour party Liberal democrats

With the general election less than three weeks away, political parties have got put forward policies to help the on-trade if they want votes from the sector.

British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA) chief executive Emma McClarkin has taken a look at what olive branches are being offered to secure backing from the UK’s licensees, pubcos and all in the industry.

The BBPA said the Conservative manifesto mentioned pubs no fewer than seven times, the Liberal Democrats gave one mention while Labour trailed behind with a total of zero.

The trade body added business rates are one of the biggest burdens on the bottom line for publicans, and BBPA analysis shows pubs overpay by £400m per year.

The Tories have pledged to ease business rates for high street and hospitality businesses by increasing the multiplier on distribution warehouses that support online retail over time. 

Labour has committed to replace the current business rates system, which is a significant promise for pubs but the BBPA said it is eagerly awaiting more details from Labour on this policy.

Meanwhile, the Lib Dems have outlined a commercial landowner levy. 

Relief extension plea

The BBPA is calling for:

• Extension of the current 75% (retail, hospitality and leisure) relief for pubs until wider reform is in place  

• Long-term, sustainable reform to business rates so the government can invest in relevant sectors without the need for ad-hoc relief schemes.  

• This could be achieved with a lower pub or hospitality sector-specific multiplier. 

McClarkin said: “Certainty is key to our sector, especially after Covid. The BBPA welcomes Labour and Conservative pledges to freeze corporation tax, which will enable the UK’s pubs and breweries to operate with greater financial security, supporting growth.

“The proposed reform of the British Business Bank aims to make it easier for SMEs to access capital is also welcome. And while the Conservatives have promised to continue the Brexit Pubs Guarantee, Labour and the Lib Dems have made no mention of beer duty, which currently sits at the second highest in Europe and is a staggering 10x higher than Germany. 

“Labour’s New Deal for Working People to Make Work Pay, proposes a national minimum wage (NMW) as a genuine living wage, ending age band discrimination. Extending the Low Pay Commission’s remit to include the cost of living in setting the NMW will ensure that all workers, regardless of age, receive fair compensation.

“For pubs, this will inevitably mean higher wage costs and so we implore a pragmatic approach and any implementation to allow time for businesses to plan their finances accordingly."

Promises from parties

She continued: “The Tories promise more apprenticeships, Labour promises to reform the broken apprenticeship levy, creating a flexible Growth & Skills Levy and the Lib Dems want it abolished and also replaced with something broader.

“We are calling on the next Government to allow businesses to use up to 50% of their levy funds for other skills development options that will drive productivity and deliver what pubs and brewers need to grow their workforce. 

“This should be achieved via fully utilising existing levy funds, huge amounts which remain unused, rather than increasing the scale of the levy. Pub and brewing business already contribute c£50m in levy payments. 

“Labour’s commitment to reducing waste by moving to a circular economy aligns with the growing emphasis on sustainability within the pub and brewing industry.

“While we are dedicated to sustainable practices, policy implementation must be done gradually and universally across the four nations. The Conservatives have pledged to continue with a UK-wide approach to a deposit return scheme (DRS). This is especially pertinent for the UK’s world-class brewers.

“Looking to pubs, the Lib Dems have pledged to reduce access costs to grid connections, which the BBPA welcomes as it will increase the number of pubs powering travel and social connection. 

“The 2024 manifestos offer several promising proposals for the pub and brewing industry. While challenges remain, the commitments outlined in these manifestos could herald a new era of stability and growth for the country’s most beloved sector... but there is still much unsaid that we will be talking to the next Government about as a matter of urgency.”

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