Tax freeze on alcohol hailed by publicans and brewers

Tax freeze on alcohol hailed by publicans and brewers

Sunak opts not to hike duty as hospitality eyes lockdown exit

The decision by Chancellor Rishi Sunak to freeze tax on alcoholic drinks for only the third time in 20 years has been welcomed by the hospitality sector across the UK.

The measure was part of a series announced in the Budget to support an industry which has endured months of enforced closures.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak said: “This is a tough time for hospitality so I can confirm that the planned increases in duties for spirits like scotch whisky, wine cider and beer will all be cancelled.”

It is the second year in a row that duties on all alcoholic drinks have been frozen.

Reacting to the Budget, Ulster Hospitality chief Colin Neill said: “Overall, this is a supportive package for our pubs, restaurants, coffee shops and accommodation providers and we hope the measures will be kept under review as we reopen and rebuild our hospitality industry and support the economy as Northern Ireland’s fourth largest private sector employer”.

‘Great support’

The representative body also welcomed the extension to the Furlough Scheme to the end of September, with Mr Neill adding: “If lockdown easement goes to plan, this will be a great support to businesses in the hospitality sector who will just be finding their feet again.”

Emma McClarkin, chief executive of the British Beer and Pub Association, said that while the fix in duty increases was welcome, the industry needed a cut: “The freeze is great for now for brewers and pubs, but for the long term we need some more support.”

Nick Mackenzie, chief executive of pubs and brewery group Greene King, said that the government needed to take “a deeper look at duty on alcohol and beer in particular, because we pay much more than our European friends.”

The Scotch Whisky Alliance said it gave distillers “some breathing space in the face of some of the worst trading conditions anyone can remember — caused by a combination of US tariffs, the coronavirus pandemic and the end of the Brexit transition period”.

But health campaigners hot out at the decision freeze alcohol tax for a second year.

Ian Gilmore, chair of the Alcohol Health Alliance, said: “It is absurd that despite the mounting strain that alcohol places on our NHS and public services, the government has taken the decision — yet again — to freeze alcohol duty, prioritising the interests of the alcohol industry above this country’s health.”