Suffolk: Beer tax hike threat to county’s economy

A MAJOR tax rise on beer could harm the Suffolk economy, it was claimed last night.

The warning from the British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA) comes just days before George Osborne unveils his Budget for 2011.

The association fears a tax hike of up to 7% on beer and claims such a rise would hit both the industry - and the thousands employed by it - hard.

Last night HM Treasury declined to comment on details of any rise prior to the Budget announcement.

Research by Oxford Economic for the BBPA showed that of every constituency in the country, Bury St Edmunds boasted the highest level of brewing-related employment in the country.

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And across the whole of Suffolk, more than 12,000 people are employed by the industry’s 26 breweries and 706 pubs. In total, the brewing sector is worth �242million to the county’s economy.

The county is home to two of the country’s leading brewing firms - the Southwold-based Adnams and Greene King.

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Brigid Simmonds, BBPA chief executive, said: “These figures show what a huge impact beer and pubs have, especially in terms of local jobs.

“Beer is vital to the economy and pubs are the heart of our communities.

“The last thing local pubs and pubgoers need is a further beer tax hike in the budget next week, when instead we could be leading the economy out of recession and creating local jobs.

“The Government needs to think again.”

Stephen Pugh, finance director at Adnams, said: “Adnams is one of Suffolk’s 22 active breweries, which together play a very important part in the county’s economy.

“Brewers are a key part of a larger industry stretching from farms to pubs.

“Suffolk is fortunate to have a particularly strong local beer heritage, consumers who value and support that heritage, excellent pubs, and farmers who grow some of the country’s best malting barley and hops.”

Business leaders in Bury St Edmunds, which is home to brewing giant Greene King, warned a tax rise on beer would hit Bury hard.

Andrew Denny, chairman of the town’s Chamber of Commerce, said: “This (the BBPA report) demonstrates the very significant contribution the brewing and pub sector makes to the local economy. Without it, Bury would literally be a poorer place.

“Any increase in taxation affects trade, and an increase on beer would have a disproportionate affect on the local economy of our town.”

A spokesman for Her Majesty’s Treasury said: “The Government recognises the important contribution the UK brewing and pub industries make to local communities and to the wider economy.

“The Government has already introduced a number of measures from which pubs will benefit, including a reduction in Corporation Tax rates and reduced employers’ National Insurance contributions. Alcohol duties make a substantial contribution to Exchequer tax revenues, providing important support to the UK’s public finances and deficit reduction plans.”

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