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8 Mar, 2013 12:40

Over a barrel: Beer duty could kill off UK pubs, campaigners warn

People in the UK are concerned over the UK government’s plans to impose another 5 per cent rise in tax on beer. They fear the proposed measure could kill pubs, many of them several hundred years old, with the British pint becoming a luxury.

With prices going through the roof, many people have been forced to drink at home. Chancellor George Osborne has been recently urged to abandon the so-called ‘beer escalator’.

A pint has already become unaffordable to a number of working people. While the average pint of beer in Britain costs £3.22, in Spain, for instance, it comes in at £1.70.

“British drinkers are paying around 10 times as much as drinkers in Germany, so we think it would just be right to hold down the burden, not increase the tax yet again and keep down the cost for ordinary consumers,” Matthew Sinclair, chief executive of the Taxpayers Alliance, told RT.

According to a report by the British Beer and Pub Association, freezing beer duty could save up to 10,000 jobs by 2014-15. On top of this, campaigners promise the measure could help increase the overall tax take by 5million pounds a year.

Campaigners claim that taxing alcohol further will neither cut binge, nor underage drinking, but could have real benefits instead.

“A duty freeze would raise revenues, protect thousands of jobs, allow us to create yet more jobs and help one of our greatest national assets — our network of much-loved British pubs,” the British Beer and Pub Association’s Brigid Simmonds has been quoted as saying.

AFP Photo / Mustafa Ozer

The pub was once the hub of the British community. These days more and more pubs go out of business, with rises in beer duty and the smoking ban among the main reasons behind it.

In fact, many say, ‘drinking’ is the new ‘smoking’, and the government is simply looking for ways to compensate tax revenue lost from smokers.

“Every time the price goes up because of duty or for whatever other reason, it makes it that bit harder really,” Julian Ross, chairman of Old Crown Co-operative said.

“You can see for yourself what this is like - it’s a community, it brings people together. It’s like the difference between social networking and meeting someone face to face there is no substitute for this kind of conviviality,” he told RT.

For more on the shifting shape of British politics, watch Sara Firth’s report.