THE one penny cut in beer duty has been labelled as “meaningless” by an organisation fighting to preserve thousands of pubs in Britain.
Fair Pint told The Irish Post that the measure, while welcomed, would not be enough to keep hundreds of Irish publicans in business throughout the country.
It is estimated there are nearly 25,000 pubs tied to brewers who are applying exorbitant beer-tie and lease demands to their customers.
This is resulting in the closure of scores of pubs every week.
“A one penny price reduction is meaningless when there are publicans tied to breweries who are being forced to pay nearly double for a barrel of beer,” said Steve Corbett from Fair Pint.
“Such a reduction is a lot of money in the pocket of brewers but it needs to be passed on to the customer”.
Corbett said George Osborne’s move to scrap the duty escalator on beer was to be welcomed, a sentiment expressed by Greg Mulholland, MP for Leeds West, who previously hailed the contribution of Irish publicans to the British Drinks’ industry.
“This is one victory in a bigger battle,” said Mulholland. “The next thing to tackle is the Statutory Code.”
Last week, Mr Osborne announced that he was cutting taxes on a pint of beer by 1p and ending the duty escalator, which would save 3p on a pint over the next few years.
But Mulholland told The Irish Post that thousands of publicans were being over-charged and “squeezed” out of business by so-called Pubcos. He highlighted this as the most pressing problem to be addressed.
Pressure is currently being brought to bear on the Government to introduce a Statutory Code that will protect landlords from exorbitant beer-ties and allow them to buy stock at prices close to those charged to Free Houses’.
However, a real concern has been expressed by publicans who believe that if this agreement is made good, Pubcos will just move the goalposts and charge higher rents in order to recoup losses enforced by the passing of such a code.
Steve Corbett also said he was concerned the Government would see this duty cut as a concession which could lead to a delay in dealing with the bigger problems facing the industry.
“There is a worry they might do even less now,” he said.