The ‘beating hearts’ of communities: Pubs need tax break and financial support | UK | News

Pubs need tax break and financial support

Pubs need tax break and financial support (Image: Getty)

British pubs are the “beating hearts” of their communities and are run by “hero” landlords and landladies, according to a new report.

They employ 936,000 workers, generate £28bn for the economy and deliver £15bn in taxes every year.

And just as importantly, pubs are vital social lifelines which combat loneliness and bring people together.

Now campaigners are calling for the role of Minister for Pubs to be reinstated and for the Government to offer tax breaks and specialised financial support before last orders sounded for the pub trade.

Pub is The Hub chief executive, John Longden, said: “Pubs and publicans are the heroes at the heart of community life that provide essential local services and activities that create social value.

READ MORE The unlikely UK city with more pubs then anywhere else in the country

Pub is The Hub chief executive, John Longden

Pub is The Hub chief executive, John Longden (Image: PA)

“They are a lifeline for many rural areas providing vital local services and activities such as village stores, allotments and community cafes as well as offering a safe space to tackle the major societal issue of loneliness.

“Pub is The Hub now estimates 1,000 more pubs and local areas could benefit from services if they can be directly supported in the future to diversify.”

However, pubs are shutting down at a rate of two every day across England and Wales with the number of closures surging by 50 percent in three months, according to latest official figures.

Highlighting the toll of soaring costs and intense pressures on consumer budgets, 230 pubs disappeared from local communities in the second quarter of this year.

This is a leap of more than 50 percent on the 153 pubs which closed in the three months prior.

It means a total of 383 pubs were demolished or converted for other uses such as homes, offices or even day nurseries during the first half of the year – close to the total of 386 closures seen in the entirety of 2022.

As of the end of June, there were just under 40,000 pubs left in England and Wales, although that included those left vacant and others being offered to let.

In a report issued today (Fri) called ‘Inn-Valuable: unlocking the socio-economic potential of our nation’s pubs’, think-tank Localis found 75 percent of people felt the impact of pubs to community life to be positive.

When asked if pubs are important in bringing people together, more than four-in-five (81 percent) of British adults agreed they are, with just 14 percent feeling that they are not. And 68 percent felt that pubs help combat loneliness in their local area.

Among pro-community activities supported by local hostelries, nearly half (44 percent) of people were aware of events to bring the community together.

Pubs are shutting down from inflation

Pubs are shutting down from inflation (Image: Getty)

Meanwhile, a quarter knew of inns which supported charitable causes and 17 percent knew of taverns which supported vulnerable people in their area.

Yet rising inflation and energy costs – leading to severely reduced margins for businesses and less disposable income for consumers – combined with staffing shortages have coalesced into a stormy environment for the sector. For many publicans, their livelihood is more challenging in 2023 than even during the heights of the pandemic.

Urgent calls for governmental measures, like energy bill support, beer duty freezes, VAT cuts, and specialised financial support, have echoed across the sector.

Campaigners say Chancellor Jeremy Hunt must throw the industry a lifeline in his November 22 Autumn Statement.

They would like to see business rates rebates for those pubs which take on socially valuable roles such as foodbanks or in providing warm spaces for vulnerable people.

Campaigners call on Chancellor Jeremy Hunt

Campaigners call on Chancellor Jeremy Hunt (Image: Getty)

And a £4m cash pot would help 1,000 pubs to diversify at a cost of £4,000 per pub.

Localis head of research, Joe Fyans, said: “Across Britain, pubs have consistently played a pivotal role in knitting communities together and promoting social cohesion.

“Pubs are the beating heart of many communities, playing multifaceted roles in local daily life. This is why the decline of pubs is cause for great concern. With each closure, both tangible and intangible voids are left behind. The lessons are clear: pubs, in all their forms and across all locations, remain integral to British social cohesion as hubs of activity, community, and social capital.

“This makes their presence all the more crucial as community safety nets and beacons of light, offering a lifeline hope for many people looking for a real sense of local belonging.”

In the last three months, more than half of the population (51 percent) had met a friend in a local bar. Nearly two-in-five (37 percent) had visited the pub to meet up with family, a quarter enjoyed Sunday lunch in one and 10 per cent had attended a pub-held birthday party.

Six percent of the public had used pubs for dating purposes and 13 per cent watched a sporting event, found the survey of 2,049 people.

Sir Jake Berry was the last Minister for Pubs in 2017 and a key recommendation of the report calls for the re-establishment of the role to coordinate a cross-government taskforce to help with tax and regulation, alongside an emergency fund for energy bill support.

Emma McClarkin, chief executive of the British Beer and Pub Association, said: “There are few businesses that can say they add both social and economic value and pubs are delivering that value in neighbourhoods from Lanarkshire to Liskeard, and everywhere in between.

“Pubs provide solace to people in tough times and a place to celebrate in others and to lose them would have a serious impact on people’s lives.

“With closures continuing to rise and pubs under threat from further duty and business rates cost hikes we hope the Government will seriously consider the proposals put forward by this report so the foundations can be laid to help pubs continue to do this brilliant work in their communities long into the future.”

This is not just for pints, it is ‘a place to come for help’

Becky Barnett, landlady of The Lamb Inn in Newhall, Derbyshire, says running a pub is more than just pulling pints.

For the 32-year-old and her husband Philip, 34, it is also about helping local people.

The pair have teamed up with Carole-Anne Sharp from charity Heart Of The Community, to offer free hot meals, drinks, food parcels and a place to stay every Wednesday.

Becky said: “When times are tough, we want to be a place where people can come for help.

“We’ve also been discussing other ways we can help out, maybe by introducing a monthly visit from the Citizens Advice Bureau.

“At the same time, we also face challenges with high energy bills and other rising costs, so it’s a scary time for our business as well.

“Many [pubs] are closing down because landlords are finding it tough to make a decent living. That’s such a shame. There’s nowhere in the world like a British pub.”

Comment by Emma McClarkin – British Beer and Pub Association CEO

People and communities across the country love and value their pubs. More than four out of five of us say so.

They are at the epicentre of so much of someone’s life – a first date, catching up with old friends, celebrating a wedding or the life of a loved one.

What is less obvious is the quieter way in which they provide the glue that keeps communities bonded together.

Pubs are one of our most important cultural assets, but many are struggling. As the sector recovers from the pandemic, and as the report recommends, we need a champion – a Minister for Pubs.

As the Autumn Statement approaches, they could be telling the Chancellor the sector needs beer duty to be frozen (a cut would be even better!) and for business rates relief to be extended.

Britain’s pubs are loved, now is the time to let them thrive.

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