Wetherspoons boss says Chancellor has served up a ‘dinner party’ budget

JD Wetherspoon chairman Tim Martin

JD Wetherspoon chairman Tim Martin - Credit: PA

The chairman of JD Wetherspoon has ripped into Chancellor Philip Hammond, accusing him of delivering a “budget for dinner parties” rather than pub goers.

Tim Martin used a first-half trading statement to highlight nearly £30 million of extra charges Wetherspoon will have to pay as a result of tax hikes, and derided Mr Hammond for threatening the pub sector’s survival.

He told the Press Association: “We understand the need for the Government to raise taxes, but there needs to be tax equality between pubs and supermarkets.

“I want a reduction in business rates for pubs and an increase for supermarkets, and I want VAT for food in pubs reduced too.

“It doesn’t make sense if you have a dinner party in Notting Hill with food from Waitrose there is less VAT charged on the food than if you go to a pub in Newcastle.

“Government policy is favouring places like Belgravia over less affluent parts of the country where pubs are closing down.”

Mr Martin totted up a business rates bill of £7 million, a £2 million Apprenticeship Levy charge and a £4 million hit from the sugar tax that will contribute to £29 million in extra charges the group will face over the next few years.

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He also poured scorn on Mr Hammond’s £1,000 business rates discount for pubs with a rateable value of less than £100,000, saying “that sum is dwarfed by tax and regulatory increases” and that Wetherspoon is not eligible for it in any case.

The outspoken New Zealander added: “In effect, this was a budget for dinner parties, no doubt the preference of the Chancellor and his predecessor.”

Martin made the comments alongside half-year results, which saw pre-tax profits climb 43% to £51.4 million in the 26 weeks to January 22.Like-for-like sales rose 3.3% while revenue nudged up 1.4% to £801.4 million.

Trading in the second half has got off to a mixed start, with like-for-like sales rising by 2.7% and total sales falling by 0.2% in the six weeks to March 5.