Thank you for contacting me about support for pubs and alcohol duties.
I recognise the crucial role that pubs play in the social and economic life of our nation, as well in helping to promote responsible drinking, which is why I am encouraged by the support which the Government has made available to pubs.
Everyone in our local area knows how lucky we are to have such a great array of local pubs, many of which I have been happy to support both in person and on social media. I have met most of the publicans and pub companies in the local area, most recently, I popped in to the Lion and Lamb in Horsley as part of National Pub Fortnight.
In January, the Hexham Courant put out a call for suggestions for the best pub. There is a vast range of pubs in the Tynedale area which all qualify for the title of best pub. There is something for everyone whether you are looking for proper real ale or microbreweries, food, family-friendly atmosphere, quiz nights and more. If you would like to read my favourite recommendations from across our local area, the following link from my blog may be of interest to you: My Favourite Pubs.
Last year, our very own Kevin MacLean of The Rat Inn, Anick, won at the Parliamentary Pub Chef of Year. The event took place at the House of Commons, where the four finalists in each category battled it out, after being nominated by their MPs. Over 130 nominations were received from MPs around the country who selected a pub chef from within their constituency for the awards. You can read all about the competition through the following link: https://beerandpub.com/2018/02/08/winners-announced-pub-chefs-take-the-crown-at-house-of-commons.
Through the Asset of Community Value scheme, communities can list facilities of local importance, including pubs. This means that if a pub owner wishes to sell up, the community has six months to come up with a plan and funding in order to try to save it. I am glad that there are now around 2,000 pubs across England listed as assets of community value.
I am pleased that the £3.6 million ‘More than a Pub: The Community Business Support Programme’, launched in 2016, is helping to support communities across England to own their local pub. On top of this, the Government continues to support the work of the Pub is The Hub initiative to help landlords diversify and provide essential services, such as village shops and post offices, in order to improve the sustainability of their pub.
To further support pubs, in the Autumn Budget last year the Chancellor announced a freeze on beer, cider, and spirit duties - a decision which I welcome. This year, the price of a typical pint of beer will be 2p lower than if prices had risen with inflation; the price of a pint of cider will be 1p lower; and the price of a bottle of Scotch whisky will be 30p lower. This follows the removal of the beer duty escalator in 2013 and the unprecedented cuts and freezes in beer duty since then, as well as the removal of the duty escalator for spirits, wine and cider in 2014. The Spring Budget in 2017 also provided a £1,000 discount on business rates bills in 2017 for pubs with a rateable value of less than £100,000 - 90 per cent of pubs in England - and I was pleased to see this extended in the Autumn Budget 2017 for a further year, through to March 2019. In addition, a one-third discount to business rates for pubs and bars with a rateable value below £51,000 was introduced in 2018.
I am pleased that the Government was able to deliver this, in order to support our great British spirits distilleries, our cider producers, our brewing industry and our local pubs. I support the fact that the Government is continuing to look at ways to improve the system of alcohol taxation, to ensure it helps to tackle binge drinking without unfairly penalising responsible drinkers, pubs and important local industries.
With regard to further freezes in alcohol duties, decisions on this will be taken in due course at the forthcoming Autumn Budget.
I will have missed some pubs off such a stellar list in Tynedale on my blog, but the ultimate decision is yours – are you going to back your local pub?
They are all amazing pubs, and I must confess to popping in occasionally myself! Make sure you use them, or we'll lose them.
Thank you again for taking the time to contact me about this important issue.