Save St Albans Pubs warns pubs are at risk of going under after Chancellor announces business rates discount
Campaign group Save St Albans Pubs has labelled business rate measures in the Budget a ‘sticking plaster’ and warned many pubs are at risk of going under.
In Monday’s Budget Chancellor Philip Hammond announced a one-third discount for retail premises with a rateable value of £51,000 in 2019-20 and 2020-21.
But this would do nothing to help 24 pubs in St Albans with a rateable value above £51,000, including several which are valued over £100,000.
In an open letter to the city’s MP, Anne Main, Save St Albans Pubs wrote: “The ‘sticking plaster’ from the Chancellor to give a third off rates was a positive step in the right direction.
“However, we need to highlight this will not help the 50 per cent of St Albans pubs most affected by your party’s business rate reform implemented three years ago. We need the government to act now, not in two years.
“Pubs in St Albans generate over £40 million pounds for our local economy, employing hundreds of citizens, are often fundamental in food chains by supporting local farms and businesses and generate over one hundred thousand pounds a year for charities and community groups.”
Mrs Main had agreed to meet the Save St Albans Pubs group this Tuesday, but pulled out just hours before the meeting and after the group of six had already arrived in London to meet her,
The meeting subsequently took place with one of her assistants
The letter added: “We and our supporters, who followed our visit via social media, were excited to be able to have the opportunity to lay out our concerns to you in person.
“Sadly, you were unable to make our meeting. We appreciate you have other obligations and thank you for sending your representative to speak with us.”
They have again invited her to meet with them and visit the worst-affected pubs in the city.
Mrs Main could not attend the meeting as she had a previous commitment to a round table discussion on plastic waste.
She was also called before the back bench business committee to apply for a debate on the Rohingya Muslims, an ethnic minority which has been forced out of Burma by that country’s military.
At the meeting with Mrs Main’s assistant, the group’s leader Sean Hughes said: “The business rates have massively affected the pubs in St Albans.
“The discount is not going to help the seriously affected pubs most at risk of going under.”
Save St Albans Pubs was formed after a re-evaluation of business rates in 2017 left city pubs facing an average 72 per cent increase, taking into account their rent, annual level of trade and turnover.
It is the turnover clause that has become a point of contention with St Albans publicans.
Sean said: “There is a danger across St Albans that we will end up penalising businesses that are more successful because they have the best turnover. It’s like a turnover tax.”
Save St Albans Pubs welcomed the freeze on duty for beer, certain ciders and spirits announced in the Budget, but the group also wants the development of a new business rates formula for pubs – in consultation with publicans – that does not penalise more successful establishments located in high property value areas.
They are also calling for full transparency in the business rates formula.
Mrs Main said of the Budget: “This is very good budget for small businesses and the high street.
“We will see cuts to business rates and money to help our high streets which will make a real difference.
“The freeze on beer, cider and spirits duty is also good news for all our pubs in St Albans.
“Moving to support smaller businesses and create a tax on the huge tech companies operating in the UK while paying minimal tax shows that this is a budget for hard-working families.”
Save St Albans Pubs’ visit to London coincided with a rally organised by the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA), attended by nearly 300 delegates.
At the rally, CAMRA called for a wholesale reform of the business rates system, a key demand of Save St Albans Pubs.
Sean Hughes said afterwards: “I think it was fairly successful.
“CAMRA coming on board and becoming more involved with business rates campaign means we have more power.”