An open letter to George Osborne

To readers of my usually up-beat blog about beer, food and the happy marriage of the two of them, apologies, but I felt this rather serious matter required some attention. Please share this with your twitter followers, your Facebook friends, your colleagues, even your MP, especially if you live you live in Tatton.
[Update: I received a response (albeit unremarkable) to my letter from the Treasury which I have posted below]

Dear George Osborne,

When you failed to mention the Great British Industry of brewing whilst promising to support other  industries such as medicine & Aerospace I had a feeling that I wouldn’t like the rest of what you had to say. The brewing & pub industries employ around 600,000 tax paying people (numbers courtesy of Brew Wales blog) producing & serving a truly unique British product which is served responsibly in over 52,000 business rate paying establishments.  These jobs & establishments alone have the capacity to provide massive amounts of cash for the government  coffers, especially when you consider the VAT & Duty paid on the alcohol produced & sold as well as NI, Employee Tax, Small Business & Corporation Taxes & Business Rates. By continuing to severely & irreparably damage this industry on an annual basis you will inevitably, if not already, be reducing your income significantly.

Your rapid fire announcement of the continuation of the duty escalator was cowardly and clearly intended once again to fool most of the general public. By saying “No change on alcohol duty set out by my predecessor” many will have barely heard you and only understood “no change”.  You labored over cartoon characters Wallace & Grommit for longer than you did the crippling 2%+ inflation rise is Duty on Alcohol that you are imposing for yet another year.

You may make noises about health, alcohol abuse and misuse, but do you really think that supermarkets and off licenses will be affected in the same way as pubs?  Each year the gap widens between the price a responsibly served pint costs in a supervised environment like a pub and the cheap can or bottle of imported spirits that is available without monitoring in supermarkets. People who are misusing alcohol do not do so in a pub,  they do so from the comfort of their own sofa with the ease and affordability of home deliveries meaning they can continue to buy alcohol even if they can’t walk.

The Great British Pub is at the heart of its community, creating jobs not only for staff, but also local suppliers and brewers, pubs also raise vast quantities of cash for charities each and every year and act as a social hub where people meet, talk, make friends and embody the spirit of The Big Community you keep trying to persuade us you are in favour of.

After over 100 MP’s signed a petition to scrap the Duty Escalator I was approaching the budget this year with slight optimism, how foolish. Thanks again for the stab in the back to two Great British institutions, the pub & the brewery. A can of beer in the supermarket costs 50p, a pint in a pub around £3. Have you actually spent more than a few nano seconds thinking about which would you prefer 20% VAT from?

Incidentally I have signed the e-petition to Stop the Duty escalator, I have encouraged my peers & customers to do the same and I have written to my MP previously with the same issues and a plea to reduce VAT for the hospitality sector to 5% if not only for the Olympics. People within the media and the beer industry with far more clout than myself have also been campaigning for the above issues. Not once do I feel that myself or any of the rest of the industry have been listened to properly, and I cannot understand why such a rich part of our countries history is being treated with such disdain from each and every Government over recent years.

I’m sure most of my fellow licensees alongside industry employees, brewers & pub operators would join me in wishing you and your cowardly cabinet barred from every pub in the country until you start to support us with reduced Duty, VAT or business rates, anything truly would be a start.

Noose Loaf

A George Osborne Noose Loaf

Ever hopeful,
Mitch Adams
Co-owner,
The Thatchers Arms

p.s. My chef baked this lovely loaf of bread for you, lets say it represents the ever tightening pressures you place on my margins and my business in which I employ nearly 20 people. and pay over £1k a week in VAT alone.

Update: I received the carefully considered and thoughtful response below on the 26th March, 5 days after sending a copy to the Treasury

Dear Mr Adams
I am writing on behalf of Her Majesty’s Government to thank you for your email of 21 March. 
Ministers are always keen to receive feedback from people up and down the country, so it is very good of you to take the time to write and to let them have your views. Please rest assured that the contents of your letter have been registered by the Treasury. 
Thank you, once again, for taking the trouble to write to us with your views. 
Yours sincerely 
Miss HM Lewinson
Correspondence and Information Rights Unit
HM Treasury 
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  1. #1 by Kings Head (@laxfieldpub) on March 21, 2012 - 4:46 pm

    Once again the little faith I had in this Govt. has been rapidly eroded.Your blog summarises my feelings and sentiments entirely. Like yourself, I, in my own small way, with such committed staff am trying to uphold a tradition of serving the community for little reward.My MP wrote to me telling the EDM relating to the Duty was a waste of time and money and was unnecessary in lieu of the help this Govt had given our trade. To add insult to injury the freezing of the pension increases will certainly increase my loathing of a regime I thought may have not reverted to typical political skull duggery. I certainly think this could be the straw that broke this camel’s back.
    Keep up your sterling work
    Best regards
    Bob Wilson

  2. #2 by northcotebeers on March 21, 2012 - 6:20 pm

    Great post, I fully support what you’re saying. The Beer Duty Escalator is crippling pubs, breweries and retailers.

  3. #3 by winefantastic on March 22, 2012 - 6:58 am

    The simple (though politically inexpedient) solution to the alcohol abuse situation is to stop supermarkets and convenience stores from selling alcohol altogether and instead restrict its retail to “specialists” such as pubs, clubs, hotels, restaurants and proper off-licences wherein higher levels of training and stricter licencing would solve the problem. No worries about minimum pricing then either as these outlets are unlikely to be able to subsidise one category’s margins with those from another – for example two quid for a bag of lettuce leaves against your quoted 50p for the beer.

    As regards the duty itself, the country is broke and the man is panicking. Surreptitiously shifting tax burdens between demographic groups is stock in trade for all Governments and this one is no different to the others.

    The good news is that, as a member of this industry too, I shan’t be worrying about Mansion Tax any time soon…..

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