Three cheers for alcohol duty move in Budget 2014

PUBLISHED: 10:47 20 March 2014 | UPDATED: 11:00 20 March 2014

Managing director, Andrew Nelstrop of the English Whisky Company at St George's Distillery in Roudham. Photo: Denise Bradley

Managing director, Andrew Nelstrop of the English Whisky Company at St George's Distillery in Roudham. Photo: Denise Bradley

©Archant Photographic 2010

Plenty of glasses were raised in celebration after the Budget, as duty on spirits was frozen and a penny was taken off a pint of beer.

Andrew Nelstrop, owner of The English Whisky Company in Roudham, said the news was a “total surprise” for the spirits industry, with other drinks sectors being given a bit of a tax break in previous years.

“Spirits had just been hammered by tax year after year,” he said.

“It got to a point where the Scottish whisky industry was starting to get damaged by it.”

Mr Nelstrop added they needed to compete with the European community but were having to charge so much more than their neighbours in France.

“If the duty went any higher, you would have just had people smuggling alcohol,” he said.

“Whisky is one of the nation’s top exports.”

Rupert Farquharson, managing director of Woodforde’s Brewery in Woodbastwick, said the company was “clearly delighted” with the announcement, calling it a “sensible move”.

“It’s all about the pubs,” he said.

“It’s great for our customers and the pubs selling beer.”

But the chancellor’s announcement was not cheered by everyone in the industry.

Colin Keatley, owner of the Fat Cat chain of pubs in Norwich and the Fat Cat pub, said the news had to be put into context.

“I honestly cannot get excited about a penny off a pint,” he said.

“In my opinion in the last 10 or 15 years the increases on duty have been very high – so they are just giving a little bit back. They have taxed us out of existence in the last 20 years, but the government is not making any money on increasing duty on beer because overall beer sales are down.”

Mr Keatley said it was very good news the beer industry “was not being punished any more”.

When asked about how the next budget could help his trade, Mr Keatley said he would like to see something that benefited his staff. He would also welcome an increase in the minimum wage.

Speaking about the number of pubs that had closed in recent years, Mr Keatley said some should not have been forced to cease trading but that the majority were “surplus to requirement” and it has turned the business into a leaner organisation.

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