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Julian Sturdy - Strong Voice for York Outer

Julian Sturdy

Conservative Party Candidate for York Outer
Any reference to Julian Sturdy being a Member of Parliament on this website predates the dissolution of Parliament and the 2024 General Election campaign

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Julian lobbies Chancellor for more support for pubs and breweries

July 28, 2023

Ahead of the rate changes to Alcohol Duty next week, Julian has written to the Chancellor calling for further support for pubs to recognise them as valued community assets.

The text of Julian’s letter is as follows:

Dear Jeremy,

Next week, the much awaited rate changes to Alcohol Duty come into effect. While welcome, they aren’t a silver bullet to the continued challenges pubs are facing and more still has to be done if we are going to protect these valued community assets. I was planning on writing to you closer to the Autumn Statement but feel there is no time to wait.

It is clear from my meeting with publicans in my constituency that, while support during the pandemic was welcomed, they are now facing an even greater challenge with costs increasing dramatically. There is little they can do to cut their budgets further to stay afloat but there is something the government can do.

Pubs are often the heartbeat of the community, and with diminishing pub numbers all around the UK, protecting one of Britain’s proudest institutions must be of crucial importance. As a long term supporter of pubs and the key role they play in the community, I want to take the opportunity to offer a number of measures that the Government could take to help support pubs.

As mentioned, the new draught duty rate is welcome but more should be done to level the playing field for pubs. It is hard for pubs to compete when supermarkets can sell a 12 pack of lager for the equivalent of what 2 pints in a pub would cost. Obviously, I am aware that pubs have other costs to consider, but more can surely be done to reduce the disparity from pubs to supermarkets. It could also be argued that encouraging more alcohol consumption to take place in pubs rather than at home is a step towards more responsible drinking given consumption is supervised and publicans have a duty of care.

One unwelcome side-effect of the draught duty rate is the effective end to takeaway beer sales from pubs. Sometimes, people want to support the local pub but still wish to spend the evening at home, we should not be punishing these people. We should be trying to find new ways to generate revenues for pubs, not make it harder for people. In the grand scheme of things, I believe the impact on the Treasury is insignificant in terms of the difference in duty level but for pubs every little helps.

In addition to the new draught duty rate, a permanent lower hospitality level for VAT would give our pubs an incredible boost and make a visit to the pub all the more attractive to the consumer. It would give long-term support to pubs allowing them to budget in terms of years rather than being in receipt of short-term grant support while worrying about any scheme expiring.

I know business rates reform has been on the agenda for over a decade now. While changes may not occur in the short-term, may I lobby for any new system to give special classification to pubs compared to other commercial properties. We must back up our belief that pubs are important community assets with policy that will help protect their future commercial viability.

As part of the Levelling up and Regeneration Bill, the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities is consulting on High Street Rental Auctions – a proposal that has so much potential to rejuvenate high street pubs but could instead see them lost forever. This proposal would give Local Authorities the power to auction a 1–5-year lease for vacant high street properties, which would come with permitted development rights for temporary conversion. Other property types included in these proposals could be converted with superficial changes, but converting a pub often requires removal of integral fittings and features like the bar, cellar equipment or a commercial kitchen. As these proposals give potential for permanent conversion at the end of the lease, I am concerned that pubs would be at risk under this scheme.

On this points, I will write to the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities but feel it is important that our approach to protecting pubs is cross departmental. Furthermore, every pub that is converted to a residential property is a potential business that is not supporting the Exchequer through creating employment and generating taxable income.

I hope you take the time to consider these proposals. It is a key time to help pubs survive.