The Chancellor of the Exchequer’s Autumn Statement was delivered on 17 November, just as we went to print. This is as much of a summary as time permitted. Deeper, and possibly more accurate, analysis will appear in the next edition.
In the run up to the statement, CAMRA asked its members to lobby their MPs for continuing support for hospitality businesses, especially with energy costs and business rates. Readers will also remember that an increase in alcohol duty from April 2023 had originally been scheduled but was one of the increases cancelled under the measures announced by Kwasi Kwarteng, the then Chancellor of the Exchequer. Unfortunately, it was one of the decisions subsequently reversed by his successor, the current Chancellor, on 17 October. CAMRA would like to see the cancellation reinstated.
This was included in a letter sent to James Cartlidge MP, the new Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury, on 15 November. The letter also highlighted figures from the Office for National Statistics which showed that three out of five food and drink businesses saw energy prices as their main concern, despite the Government’s Energy Bills Support Scheme, and are most likely to cut trading by at least two days a week to reduce energy costs.
The Campaign asked the Government to:
• cancel inflationary rises for beer and cider duties so as to keep price rises down for consumers;
• extend the energy support scheme for hospitality businesses beyond April;
• reduce VAT for on-trade food and alcohol to help counter inflationary price rises;
• properly reform the business rates system, to tackle the unfair burden on pubs and social clubs.
Nik Antona, CAMRA’s National Chairman commented, “With the recent changes in Government dominating the headlines, you could be forgiven for forgetting the very real and serious situation facing the licensed trade: rising costs, inflation, a looming business rates revaluation, sky high energy bills and uncertainty on Government support past April next year. When Governments are changing and Ministers are being reshuffled, it’s more important than ever to make sure that issues affecting consumers, pubs, clubs, brewers, and cider makers are in MPs’ inboxes.”
SO WHAT ACTUALLY HAPPENED?
• No decision has yet been made as to whether alcohol duties will be frozen or increased by RPI;
• Further help with energy costs was promised but no details were given, except that it will be at a lower rate;
• No changes were made to VAT and won’t be before March 2026;
• Business rates relief for all for all small and medium enterprises (SMEs) has been extended into 2023/2024 and increased from 50% to 75% for premises with a rateable value below £110,000. The business rates multiplier has also been frozen for 2023/2024 which means that most businesses should not see an increase. London’s high rateable values however limit the overall benefit to the capital. This all helps, of course, but it still isn’t the ‘root and branch’ review that has been promised and is needed.
The National Living Wage will be increased to £10.42 for those over 23. I’m sure that no-one begrudges bar staff an increase but it does add to running costs. Employer’s National Insurance Contributions have however been frozen.
CAMRA’s Chief Executive, Tom Stainer, commented, “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. 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.”