Ailing alehouses in village tax appeal
CALLS are mounting for village pub tax laws to be changed to halt the tide of closures.
Pubs should get business rate relief of at least 50% in line with village shops and post offices, says the Campaign for Real Ale, whose research suggests 20 country boozers could be disappearing every month.
"A pub is a centre for community focus," says CAMRAs Iain Low. "Its not just a place to get a drink – in the same way that a post office isnt just a place to buy stamps."
Pubs are the latest in a long line of services disappearing from the countryside, says Mr Low. "It means the death of the countryside by a thousands cuts."
The proposed tax change would, he says, only cost the government about £5-6m. "Thats the sort of money the Dome gets through in a couple of hours."
And for publicans in isolated areas, it could be a lifeline. "It could be the difference between staying in business and going out of business."
CAMRAs Mike Benner adds: "Pubs are at the heart of communities. They are important meeting places, important sources of local employment, essential to building strong communities through team sports and local events and they are a controlled place where people of all walks of life can enjoy alcohol.
"A system of rate relief currently enjoyed by post offices and shops would cost very little, be easy to introduce and administer and help make many struggling pubs more viable before they are lost forever."
And more than four-fifths of the public – across all age groups, social classes and regions – think a hostelry is "essential" to a rural community, reveals a CAMRA survey.
The Countryside Agency is also backing the call, suggesting alehouses which are vital hubs of the villages they serve should be excused 50% to 100% of the charge.
"Some councils have published community plans, suggesting up to 100% relief for both pubs and shops. But so far it has all been words and good intentions," says the CAs Tony Dadoun. "Now is the time for village publicans to create a momentum and bring a change in attitudes. The village pub is too important to lose."
The Transport and General Workers Union, the largest union in the brewing industry, has also been alarmed by the trend. "You lose the pub and the village loses its soul," says Brian Revell, T&G national organiser.
Time, please… The Woolpack from TVs Emmerdale, like many rural pubs, is a focal point of village life – but some are facing closure.