Wednesday 9 December 2009
Back with a Budget Bang
I'm kicking off my reinvigorated campaign of rants with the Budget - what a surprise, no reprieve on beer duty.
There were a couple of measures that may help the industry overall but the kick in the teeth of VAT returning to its 17.5% state and no breaks on beer duty means it's going to be yet another expensive year for the beer industry and pub trade.
Here are some stark facts for you; the Government currently makes five times more profit than brewers or pubs from beer, according to a report from Oxford Economics. What this means in real terms is that the total UK beer market generates £19bn, from which the Government takes 84%, which amounts to £8.6bn total tax and profit generated by beer sales for the coffers.
Seems a little unequal right? But if only we had trade & industry bodies that were designed to represent the interests of beer makers, purveyors and drinkers to do this something about this gross imbalance - oh, wait! We do!
But do you know what? There's just too bloody many of them and they all seem far more interested in protecting their own corners, running each other down and infighting than they do actually securing a better deal for all those involved.
As Pete Brown, in his acceptance speech for Beer Writer of the Year (congrats matey), so eloquently put it, this internicine war has to stop.
We now have, to the best of my knowledge (and I'm sure I've missed a few): the British Beer & Pub Association, the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers, the British Institute of Innkeeping, Society of Independent Brewers, Fair Pint, the National Association of Licensed House Managers, the GMB, Campaign for Real Ale, Justice for Licensees, Independent Family Brewers of Britain, the All Party Parliamentary Beer Group (and the cider one) and a handful of smaller campaigning groups.
And all of them have roughly the same aims - to deliver a fairer structure to all levels of the British brewing and pub system and gain a better deal for the average drinker, yet they are consistently failing to do so!
I firmly believe that (as I think the above list illustrates) there are too many voices with too many agendas and that will merely give any administration a way to wriggle out of making any changes other than those it wishes to make - because that many voices will always offer the opportunity to twist any given argument to the administration's own end.
There's a lack of focus; if only these bodies could agree to get together on three issues a year to co-campaign on and invest in then I firmly believe that we would begin to see a genuine difference in the attitude of the Government towards the pub & brewing sectors.
Now I'm not saying that I've got all the answers here, I don't, but what I do believe is that a focused and adult approach to working together by all these groups is the only answer.
If the wine and whisky lobbies can do it, why can't we?