*November last year pre Covid at The Talbot in Cuckfield with Cllr Pete Bradbury, Cllr John Belsey, Cllr Lin Stockwell and Mid Sussex residents
Several constituents from Mid-Sussex have got back in touch with me recently regarding the Government support for our pubs and I have been raising these concerns with my colleagues in the Treasury, including the Chancellor, emphasising the importance our pubs continue to play in our local communities, as well as the need to support them during what are incredibly challenging times. I want to provide you with the latest updates and information I have from the Government.
Our local pubs play a crucial role in the social, cultural and economic life of our nation and I wholeheartedly share the concerns of people across the country about the impact and current challenges our pubs are having to face due to the coronavirus outbreak. I have spent a lot of time discussing the different impacts the pandemic is having with our local pub landlords and I have been feeding their thoughts back in to my colleagues in Westminster.
I was hugely encouraged by the Chancellor's Winter Economy Plan, which puts in place further support to help tackle the challenges businesses, like our pubs, now face. The Job Support Scheme will help participating business ensure employees on reduced hours earn a minimum of 77 per cent of their normal wages, helping keep people across the country paid and employed.
I also welcomed the temporary cut to VAT from 20 per cent to 5 per cent for all food and non-alcoholic drinks, which applies from 15 July 2020 to 12 January 2021 to restaurants, pubs, bars, cafés and similar premises across the UK. The Eat Out to Help Out scheme has supported thousands of businesses and help protect the jobs of over a million employees. Pubs, restaurants and others who participated will be fully reimbursed for the discount by the Government.
I thank all those who keep our local pubs going, particularly in our villages and I believe we have some of the best locals around - The Victory in Staplefield, The Woolpack in Burgess Hill, The Farmers in Scaynes Hill, The Sportsman in Goddards Green, the Talbot in Cuckfield and I could go on. But we simply must not take them for granted. As the former Loneliness Minister, I know they serve as a great way of bringing people together and I am always particularly pleased when they are dog friendly as I love taking my dog out and about when I’m meeting friends at the local.
HMRC has made it easier to claim back the duty on any beer thrown away as a result of pub closures. The Business and Planning Act made it easier to serve customers outdoors through temporary changes to planning procedures and licensing. The unprecedented Job Retention Scheme has rightly protected over 9 million jobs through the most difficult period of the pandemic, which I am sure has been a relief and comfort to many. The latest information on how the Government is supporting businesses, including on business rates, can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus/business-support
Additionally, my understanding is Beer Duty doesn’t always have to be paid to HMRC immediately and an application can be made to HMRC before duty becomes payable in these cases. These suspensions can be granted if, for example, beer is held post-production on your registered premises in duty suspension, has been sent to other registered premises approved to receive beer in duty suspension, has been sent to an excise warehouse approved to hold beer in duty suspension for certain purposes, or has been sent to a registered beer packager. There are strict rules governing these suspensions so I would suggest identifying specific criteria at https://www.gov.uk/guidance/beer-duty .
On the new restrictions which have been put in place across the country, including the 10pm closing time for pubs and other businesses selling food and drink, I completely sympathise with pub owners who would naturally prefer these to not be in place. This is in addition to the ruling that food and drink must be ordered from and served at a table in indoor and outdoor licensed premises. Both staff and customers must wear a face covering when visiting a pub, except when seated at a table to eat or drink. I know how frustrating this must be, having discussed this issue extensively with constituents, but the Government have chosen to act following infection rates rising exponentially across the UK.
Our pubs play a huge role in British society, and I want to see the Government continue to support pubs through measures introduced to relieve the financial burden they are facing at this time. I have been assured the Government will continue to closely monitor how to adjust support and measures which directly affect our pubs in the coming weeks and months ahead.
I have ensured my colleagues are aware of the points both yourself and others have raised, reminding them of the importance of local pubs to our communities. I will continue to follow developments closely and will update constituents as and when there are any.