Thought that pint you had at the weekend was a touch on the pricey side? Well think on, because in years to come you’ll be remembering it as the halcyon days of cheap, affordable booze, according to one city MP.
Gill Furniss, MP for Hillsborough in Sheffield and Shadow minister for Steel, Postal Affairs, and Consumer Protection, has claimed that pubs are going to be hit with a £421m increase in bills as a result of incoming business rate re-evalutions – a move which could lead to the cost of a pint soaring by a massive 30p.
Speaking in Parliament on Monday, she said: "Twenty-nine pubs are closing every week and the industry estimate they will need to increase prices by 30p per pint to deal with the £421 million rates increase after the re-evaluation. All small businesses – many in Sheffield and Brightside, my own constituency – are in the firing line. Given the public outcry from local businesses, local authorities and even his own backbenchers, does the Secretary of State agree with Labour that there should be a full review of how business rates operate?"
Former Tory minister Richard Benyon, MP for Newbury, agreed with Furniss, saying: "Pubs appear to be the net loser from the re-evaluation in my constituency. The Government has done an awful lot to protect pubs in recent years. Is this not another example of where the Valuation Office Agency needs to be got a grip of, because they seem to defy what the Government is trying to do on one hand by rate re-evaluations which drive important businesses we value out of business."
However, Andrew Percy MP, argued that the approach to valuing pubs had been agreed with all five bodies representing the sector, including the British Beer and Pub Association and the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers.
He said: "Pubs and pub restaurants across Yorkshire and the Humber will actually see a four per cent cut in their rates overall, and of course many of them will also benefit from the doubling of small business rate relief. The Secretary of State and the Chancellor are continuing to look very closely at what further support can be made available to those who are most impacted by rises."
The row comes ahead of the implementation in April of new business rates – the tax that companies have to pay on the shops, offices, warehouses and factories that they use. They are based on the value of the real estate, the value of machinery and equipment and the business sector, and are re-evaluated every five years to take account of the changing value of properties.
However, the last reappraisal happened in 2010, meaning that the new rates are two years overdue, and represent a bigger change than normal. Although, overall, the government will collect the same amount of revenue, there will be large variations between areas, since some places – such as London and the South East – have seen huge growth in property prices, while others have seen a fall.
Real estate experts Colliers International, looking at retailers as an example, believe around 324 retail centres across Britain will see a decrease in business rates; 21 will pay the same amount; and 76, mostly in London and the South East, are likely to see increases.
So if you live in an area where house prices have gone up since 2008, then your pub could suddenly be getting more expensive.
We’d best drown our sorrows while we can.