Column: supporting local pubs and breweries

The following appeared as my column in the Barnsley Chronicle on 7th February:

Working class pub culture has been at the heart of communities like ours for hundreds of years. Local breweries and pubs are an important part of our area and economy here in Barnsley. They occupy a central place in the cultural heritage of our community, providing somewhere to meet and be sociable with friends and family.

The brewing and pub sector add a lot to our local area. The Acorn and Geeves breweries produce world-class beer, which I know is enjoyed not just across Yorkshire but also in Parliament. In addition, over 561 jobs rely on these breweries and the 65 locals from Barnsley.

However, pubs across the UK are currently under threat. The UK has one of the highest tax rates in Europe, leaving pubs struggling to survive. Even though they contribute £12.1million to our local economy almost £1 in every £3 pounds pubs make is sent to the taxman.

Pubs and breweries should be supported by this Government instead of taxed into bankruptcy. This is an issue I have spoken about in Parliament after seeing pubs and breweries from our area forced to close their doors due to unaffordable beer duties, business rates and VAT.

A cut to beer tax is the only solution to keep their doors open. For this reason, I have supported the Long Live the Local Campaign that celebrates pubs whilst drawing attention to the specific challenges they face.

On average each pub in the UK pays more than £140,000 a year in tax. It is a huge burden that had left many publicans and landlords no option but to give up on pubs that have existed for hundreds of years.

This is nothing short of a tragedy. Communities like ours risk losing buildings that have been part of the physical and cultural landscape of our areas for hundreds of years.

As I’ve mentioned in Parliament, we have already lost the Black Bull Pub, which was 250 years old. Hardworking publicans, many of whom have worked in pubs their entire lives alongside their parents and grandparents, are struggling to make ends meet.

If we are to save pubs and breweries it is crucial that the Government reconsider the beer tax in March’s budget. This would allow pubs to compete with cheap supermarket alcohol.

Breweries and pubs are at the heart of British communities like ours. I will continue push for a reconsideration of the tax burden that is currently placed on these British institutions and stand up for them in Parliament.