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People power sees dramatic cut in beer tax

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A Swedish friend of mine says that in his country that a love child has many names.

The cutting of the beer in the budget http://www2.beerguild.co.uk/?p=3928 is indeed a momentous moment, which many people can rightly claim they have contributed to and claim as theirs.

But for me the biggest contribution was made by ordinary folk, beer drinkers who lobbied Parliament in December last year.

I wrote the following piece for use in What’s Brewing on the day of the lobby, it was my humble attempt to encapsulate the passion of their campaign.

“Remember this day 12/12/2012”, said CAMRA Chief Executive Mike Benner, “when we lobbied more than 300 MPs. You should be very proud.”

They came in their hundreds, from all parts of the United Kingdom. From the north, south, east and west more than 1,200 members journeyed to London to take part in CAMRA’s mass lobby of Parliament.

Some travelled by trains and boats and even one member by plane. South Herts member Ian Boyd had flown into London that morning from Taiwan to see his MP. And 10 coaches bought members from around the country to Emmanuel Hall in Westminster, where activists gathered before walking to Parliament to see their MP.

Some made placards and posters, there were licensees and brewers but most were ordinary CAMRA members, who had taken a day off work, to ensure that MPs get the message loud and clear that over the past 40 years there have been few threats to the UK pub industry as severe as the beer duty escalator.

Parliament witnessed the largest mass lobby in CAMRA’s 40 plus years, as more than 205 members had pre-arranged meetings with their MP and more than 300 MPs met with CAMRA members from their constituency.

One MP said CAMRA had created a real buzz in Parliament and it was the largest and best organised lobby of Parliament he had seen. Even Labour leader Ed Milliband wanted to get in on the act, as his office contacted CAMRA to find out if anyone from his Doncaster North constituency was attending the lobby.

North Oxfordshire branch chairman John Bellinger said the day was the “greatest opportunity, possibly ever, for ordinary people to have a positive effect on the decision makers of this country, to address this ridiculously unfair tax,

And John knows first-hand about the crippling effects of the tax. A former licensee, he used to run the Bell in Adderbury, Oxfordshire until April last year. He says the beer tax escalator contributed to exceptionally high costs making his business unviable.

“The Government needs to recognise the harm this policy is doing to well-run community pubs,” said John.

South Herts member Steve Bury had made arrangements to meet his MP, James Clappison. Steve said: “I know my MP supports the campaign to scrap the beer duty escalator, but I want to ask him to canvass other MPs to get them to support the Early Day Motion (EDM) 703.” The EDM call for a review of the economic and social impact of the beer duty escalator, which should report back to the Treasury before the 2013 Budget.

Rutland branch secretary Jon Whowell had travelled to London that day with three other members of the branch.

“We are only a small branch and I am really pleased with the turnout. I am really impressed by the organisation that has gone into this day,” said Jon.

Alexandra Bardwell came up from West Dorset to see her MP. “He is very supportive, but I wanted to be part of the big noise,” she said.

Reflecting on the undoubted success of the day CAMRA National Chairman Colin Valentine said: “Today is not the end, we must keep putting pressure on MPs, so they keep putting pressure on the Treasury. Let’s not be careful out there, let’s do it to them, before they do it to us.”

And they did it. Not only was the escalator scrapped but beer duty was cut by 1p.

And I am sure like good campaigners, CAMRA will not stop. Laurels are not for resting on. The selling of alcohol at below cost prices by supermarkets needs to be stopped.

Written by timhampson

March 20, 2013 at 5:08 pm

Posted in Budget, CAMRA, Uncategorized

It’s time for the Budget to give beer a break

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Even if Chancellor George Osborne says not one word about beer tax in the Budget the price of a pint will go up.

Because of a pernicious tax ruse called the “escalator” there will be an automatic increase of seven per cent in beer duty. This comprises an inflation increase plus two per cent.

The raising of beer duty year on year in the form of the beer duty escalator is a lazy and thoughtless policy. Like it or not the government must face two stark facts – increase beer tax and tax revenues will fall and more pubs will close putting people out of work.

Freezing duty could generate up to £40 million in extra tax revenues say the enormous brains of researchers at Oxford Economics, which should be good news for everyone.

The British Beer and Pub Association www.beerandpubjobs.co.uk has undertaken an excellent survey of Parliamentary constituencies and the impact the beer and pub industry has at a local level.

I recommend everyone check out their own constituency. The Oxford West and Abingdon page shows that just in this area the 70 pubs pub employ 1,566 people, pay £23 million in wages and contribute £35 million to the local economy (something called gross value added) and there is one brewery.

If beer tax goes up, jobs will go, pubs will close and many communities will be immeasurably damaged not just economically but socially.

Come on politicians its time for a people’s budget which gives a lifeline to the place most of us socialise in – the pub.

Written by timhampson

March 23, 2011 at 9:22 am