There’s help for pubs in terms of coping with business rates, but little else of value to the broader hospitality sector in the autumn statement from chancellor Jeremy Hunt.
“The UK’s world-renowned pubs, social clubs, brewers, and cider makers are a vital part of the social fabric of our communities that need and deserve help to make sure that they survive and thrive,” said CAMRA chief executive, Tom Stainer. “But businesses and pubgoers will have found little comfort in today’s Budget statement.
“The lack of clarity on whether or not the hospitality sector will get help with energy costs beyond April 2023 makes it impossible for licensees to plan and risks more of our beloved locals calling last orders for good as they struggle to cope with rising costs and customers tightening their belts.
“With consumers feeling the squeeze, it has been disappointing that the Chancellor didn’t announce any extra help to keep pub going affordable, such as re-introducing the freeze in alcohol duties to avoid additional increases in the price of a pint or bringing forward plans for a new, lower rate of duty for draught beers.
“CAMRA will continue to campaign for extra support and a fair deal for the nation’s pubs, clubs, breweries, and cider producers.”
On business rates, he added: “Extending and increasing business rates relief for hospitality businesses in England in 2023/24 will certainly be welcomed by licensees. However, this is not a substitute for proper reform of the business rates system to end the unfair burden on pubs.
“CAMRA will now be looking closely at the results of the latest revaluation and can only hope that the pub sector has a fairer share of the burden than before.”
“They say that no news can be good news and today we see that the Chancellor is yet to make a decision on beer duty, or whether it will increase in line with RPI,” said Richard Naisby, acting chair of SIBA.
“However, this lack of clarity adds to the uncertainty facing the sector as independent breweries battle significant energy increases, supply issues, and a cost of living crisis.
“While the extension of the retail, hospitality and leisure business rate relief support to 75% is welcome, once again small breweries are likely to miss out on this support, even though they are at the heart of the hospitality sector. Previously the government introduced the Additional Relief Fund for those businesses, like breweries, that missed out on support and its disappointing this has not been repeated today.”
Greg Mulholland, campaign director of the Campaign for Pubs, said: “It is absolutely devastating that the chancellor has ignored the existential crisis facing our nation’s pubs in the Autumn Statement. At a time when support is vital for many pubs and other hospitality businesses to get through the winter, the only support announced comes in next spring and over five years.
“With exorbitant energy bills, spiralling costs, reduced consumer spending, and now a wage rise for staff, spring will be too late for many publicans and pubs. Far too little and far too late from a government that seems content to see pubs close in communities up and down the country.
“Direct support is needed for pubs to get through the winter. To raise staff wages without any accompanying financial support will lead to fewer jobs, fewer hours, and more pub closures, as well as more unemployment in the sector. This makes no sense. We urge the government to wake up before many valued pubs are closed and many communities lose their local.”
Dawn Hopkins, vice-chair of the Campaign for Pubs, and licensee of the Rose Inn Pub, Norwich, added: “It’s incredibly disappointing that the chancellor has taken no action in the Autumn Statement to help small businesses, including pubs and small brewers, who are already in a downward spiral due to increased costs and decreased customer spending, with a very bleak winter ahead of them.
“I truly fear that pub closures will continue to increase with even the most robust operators struggling to cope, and we will lose even more of our beloved pubs from our communities if this government continues to ignore our calls for targeted support.”
Urgent reform needed
“It is right the chancellor has acknowledged the need for changes to our business rates system, and we welcome the extended and increased relief to 75% for pubs, so they do not continue to be penalised through unfair taxation,” said Emma McClarkin, chief executive of the British Beer & Pub Association. “Urgent root and branch reform is still needed make business rates fit for the 21st century.”
But she added: “The failure to provide any further relief for our industry today will hit pubs, breweries, and their customers extremely hard this winter, and will have a devastating, lasting impact on communities across the country.
“Without lower beer duty or detail on whether energy costs will dramatically increase early next year, pubs and brewers will still be forced to continue to make incredibly difficult decisions. The last thing they want to do is increase costs for their customers; they want to remain a place of solace, warmth, and community, especially now, when the country needs them most.
“The chancellor says we need to weather the storm together, but pubs and brewers are still facing a hurricane of costs leaving nothing but destruction in its wake. Their costs are up 22% on average from last year; we are now losing 50 pubs a month for good. With the entire country being plunged further into a cost of living crisis that shows no signs of let up, there is nowhere for these businesses left to go.”
Emma concluded: “Our pubs and brewers want to remain strong, serve their communities, and have the potential to support the government’s mission to level up every single part of the UK. They have stood at the heart of villages, towns, and cities for centuries.
“They pulled through the pandemic, but are now faced with an existential crisis that will undoubtedly force more business closures in the coming months, as they simply have no options left. More is needed from the government to secure their future.”
Kate Nicholls, chief executive of UKHospitality, said: “The chancellor painted a grim picture of what we’re facing as a nation, and Britain’s hospitality businesses are already in the midst of severe economic turmoil.
“Survival this winter is the priority for venues across the country, and there is the very real possibility that a significant proportion of our sector will not survive the winter. It was crucial that the government addressed this today.”
She agreed with Emma McClarkin that business rates measures were welcome, but that the system needs complete reform in the long run.
She added: “What we failed to hear today from the chancellor was any plan for economic growth, despite him recognising its importance. Businesses create jobs, deliver higher wages, and contribute millions in tax revenues, but without a serious plan from the government, margins continue to be squeezed without a path forward to growth.
“There is nothing to give firms confidence, let alone invest, and we need to see an urgent plan for economic growth and how business will be at the centre of that. UKHospitality stands ready to work with government to develop such a plan and on the essential package of energy support post-April.”