Beer tax hikes slow UK sales, says BBPA

Lobby group blames decline on the 5 per cent tax increase in the March Budget.

Beer today, gone tomorrow: decline in sales could lead to job losses. Credit: Getty Images

Pub beer sales in the UK declined by 6 per cent year on year in the first quarter of 2012, according to the latest beer barometer from the British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA), released today.

The decline amounts to 57 million less pints sold compared to the same period last year.

The association believes that the current pressures on the beer and pub sector – on which almost a million jobs depend – highlight the poor decision of the government to raise the beer tax by 5 per cent in the March Budget, making for a 42 per cent tax hike since March 2008.

Overall beer sales fell by 1.4 per cent in the quarter compared to last year.

In the year to March 2012, they were down 2.9 per cent, following a 7 per cent rise in beer duty last March. This drop in sales was at a slower rate than in the previous four years. 

The BBPA and Oxford Economics believe that the recent hike, made despite widespread protest, will result in the loss of some 5,000 jobs over the 2012-2013 financial year.

A government e-petition demanding an end to these punitive tax rises has so far attracted more than 28,000 signatures.

Brigid Simmonds, chief executive of BBPA, said:

These figures show the Chancellor was totally wrong to raise beer tax again in his Budget, as this discredited policy continues to hit pubs hard. This key British industry could be an engine of growth for the economy - but poor tax policy is damaging our potential. The public are getting behind calls for a change in policy, and signing the e-petition in their thousands. I hope people will continue to respond positively and back a tax freeze - and I hope the government will listen.

The BBPA members account for 96 per cent of the beer brewed in the UK and own half of Britain’s 51,000 pubs.