Budget day is a month from today, Wednesday 21 March. And, in the run-up period, we have had all the predictable calls from the usual suspects – the BBPA, CAMRA, SIBA and the WSTA – for alcohol duties to be frozen and the duty escalator to be scrapped. The current policy, so they say, is closing pubs, losing jobs, encouraging smugglers and is anyway subject to the law of diminishing returns.
And, of course, they’re broadly right, even if each one focuses on its own particular section of the industry rather than the wider picture. But what do you think are the chances that George Osborne will actually do anything to act on their suggestions? I would say much the same as those of a cat in hell. So all the public relations guys in these organisations must increasingly get the feeling that they are just going through the motions for the sake of it.
There must also be a concern that there will be even further tightening of the alcohol duty screw. It would not surprise me if we saw at least one of:
- An increase in High Strength Beer Duty, as the current level has not let to a cut in strength for popular beers above 7.5% ABV, and
- Another attempt to bring cider duty closer to that on beer