Budget 2014: Greene King and Adnams toast George Osborne after a 1p cut in the price of a pint
- Credit: PA
Brewing giants in Suffolk have hailed the Chancellor after he announced a 1p cut in the price of a pint for the second year running in today’s Budget.
George Osborne unveiled the move in a bid to help an embattled pub industry which has seen around 700 Suffolk pubs close in the last two decades.
The Chancellor last year scrapped a planned 3p rise in beer duty and replaced it with a 1p cut in the price of a pint – with another 1p cut in duty in a pint of beer revealed today.
Mr Osborne also announced plans to scrap the alcohol duty escalator – which normally goes up by inflation plus 2% each year – despite warnings from health experts.
Rooney Anand, chief executive of Greene King, said that although today’s Budget was not a “game-changer”, it would serve to address issues within the industry and help to “stem the tide of pub closures”.
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“Our economy is at a crucial turning point; therefore anything that puts more money in to the pocket of consumers to stimulate growth is welcomed,” he said.
“Greene King has been calling on the Chancellor to cut beer duty in this Budget as it is popular with customers and promotes growth in our sector. It is good to see that after years of increases George Osborne is serious about cutting the burden on the beer and pub sector.
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“This cut, which we will pass on to our hard-working licensees immediately, will facilitate more investment and employment. If this leads to further cuts going forward then it could provide significant help to stem the tide of pub closures.”
He added: “The introduction of degree level apprenticeships is another positive step in helping to tackle youth unemployment and it would be used to good effect within the pub and beer sector. However, I am disappointed that the Chancellor did not extend the National Insurance exemption to under-25s.”
Stephen Pugh, finance director at Adnams, described the announcement as “great news”.
He said: “It is heartening that the Chancellor has continued to support beer, pubs and pub-goers for a second consecutive year.
“Given that beer duty had risen 40% since 2008, this action was long overdue. The abolition of above-inflation increases on other drinks is also most welcome. Long may this policy continue.”
Mr Osborne said: “We’ve introduced new laws to prevent alcohol being sold below minimum tax rates, and this helps prevent supermarkets undercutting pubs, and helps stop problem drinking.
“It’s a far more targeted approach than the alcohol duty escalator hated by many responsible drinkers.”
Mike Benner, chief executive of the Campaign for Real Ale (Camra), said: “Camra is delighted to see the Chancellor implementing an unprecedented second consecutive cut of 1p in beer duty. This is not only about keeping the price of a pint affordable in British pubs but helping an industry which has been in overall decline continue on its long road to recovery.
“Camra cares greatly about the future of the great British pub and it is clear from this Budget announcement that the Government do too.
“Keeping the price of a pint affordable is vital for the long-term health of the pub sector and Camra would hope this latest vote of confidence in British pubs will go some way to slowing the rate of closures, by encouraging more people to make use of their local this summer.
“No doubt many of our 160,000 members will be raising a glass to the Chancellor this evening to toast another brilliant Budget for British beer drinkers.”
Katherine Brown, director of the Institute of Alcohol Studies, said: “Today’s announcement to scrap the alcohol duty escalator is staggering. With alcohol costing the country £21 billion a year, and alcohol-related hospital admissions more than doubling over the last ten years, it comes as a shock to learn that the Chancellor believes that it is right to further incentivise drinking by making alcohol cheaper.
“Alcohol is 61% more affordable today than it was in 1980 and current duty rates for strong white cider amount to just 6p per unit. Yet the Chancellor appears to think that this isn’t cheap enough.
“This decision, similar to the u-turn on minimum pricing, has been taken following an intense and aggressive lobbying campaign from the drinks industry. It is yet more evidence to suggest the Government has turned its back on public health and frontline workers such as nurses and police offers, who have to mop up the mess that alcohol creates day in day out.
“It is yet another sad day to see how the profits of multinational alcohol producers have been prioritised over public health and safety.”
Eric Appleby, chief executive of Alcohol Concern, added: “Once again this Government has cast aside the health of the nation to protect the interests of big alcohol.
“The notion that this freeze is about protecting responsible drinkers is irresponsible spin - alcohol misuse costs us all £21 billion a year, our hospitals weigh under the burden of it and our police forces are stretched to the limit because of it. Instead of taking serious, evidence-based action the Chancellor has given the alcohol industry the green light to make bigger profits at all of our expense.
“This freeze makes a mockery of the Government’s ban on below cost sales, rendering it even less effective than it would have been.
“Until we treat alcohol misuse as the huge public health issue it is, like smoking, we will all continue to pay billions to deal with it.”