Rising beer prices contribute to 18 pubs a week closing – CAMRA

BRITAIN’S pubs are closing at a rate of 18 a week, new figures have shown. The statistics produced by real ale pressure group CAMRA underline the pressure being heaped on the pubco sector, a major employer in the West Midlands.

Published before today’s major Parliamentary debate on the beer duty escalator, the CAMRA figures show 450 pubs across the country have been lost since March.

The latest CGA-CAMRA Pub Tracker, covering the period of March-September 2012, shows the rate of pub closures escalating.

For the period September 2011 to March 2012, 12 pubs a week were closing. Since March the rate of closures has risen by a third.

Burton-upon-Trent pubco Punch Taverns illustrated the situation faced by the pubs sector last month when it revealed its full-year EBITDA fell to £238m (2011: £258m), while pre-tax profit declined to £64m (2011: £76m).

The company blamed the poor performance on a combination of a long-term decline in drinking-out of approximately 3.5% per annum, changing customer behaviour, relative price positioning and the impact of regulation which meant the number of pubs in the UK was continuing to decline.  

CAMRA reinforced this claiming publicans were struggling to combat the joint threats posed by the burden of taxation, low supermarket pricing and poor consumer confidence.

The pressure group said the industry was in vital need of a successful outcome at today’s Parliamentary debate and used the event to call for a review of the social and economic impact of the beer duty escalator before Budget 2013.

Independent Staffordshire brewer Titanic has already written to five Staffordshire MPs urging them to support the case against the beer tax escalator.

CAMRA said that since the beer duty escalator was introduced in 2008 – which automatically increases duty on beer by 2% above inflation every year – more than 5,800 pubs have closed. In addition, beer sales have continued to fall, with the British Beer and Pub Association reporting that UK beer sales have fallen by 5.6% from July – September alone.

In late September the CAMRA-backed e-petition calling for the abandonment of the beer duty escalator became the 12th of its kind to reach the 100,000 signature landmark. This has triggered today’s debate.

Mike Benner, CAMRA Chief Executive, said: “For too long, Britain’s beer drinkers have been forced to endure inflation busting rates of tax on their pint, while the Treasury’s own projections show that these hikes will fail to bring in any additional revenue over the next three years.

“As today’s pub closure figures show, the future of Britain’s valued community pubs remains in jeopardy. With pubs finding it ever harder to maintain consistent footfall at a time when prices are ever increasing, it is only hoped that Parliament will today take the first steps by voting to review punitive taxation policies on Britain’s national drink.”

Matthew Sinclair, Chief Executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: “An escalator means consistent tax hikes on alcohol, which hits those on low and middle incomes hardest. What’s more, high taxes mean we run the risk of making black market booze even more profitable.

“This leaves us with a yawning tax gap, and again it’s hard-pressed families making up the shortfall. To close the gap, and to give people a break, the Government must take on board CAMRA’s proposal to scrap the duty escalator so a pint of beer doesn’t cost taxpayers the earth.”