Tax breaks urged for community pubs
Pubs which improve community life should be given tax breaks to help them survive, according to a report by a leading think-tank.
With 16 public houses currently believed to be closing each week, the report by the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) recommends a 50% business rate relief for those that can prove they act as community hubs.
The report says this would help prevent the loss of more pubs which strengthen local networks, after a survey commissioned by the IPPR found a majority of people see pubs as the best place to keep up to speed with their community.
The British Beer & Pub Association this week reported 140 million fewer pints of beer were sold in pubs last year, as they struggle to cope with competition from supermarkets, increases in tax on beer and changes in consumers' tastes.
Rick Muir, associate director at IPPR, said: "Government must stop using a one-size-fits-all approach to licensed premises which is killing off our community pubs. Instead, responsible well-run community pubs should be encouraged and supported.
"Our research shows community pubs aren't just places to drink but also places where people meet their neighbours, where local clubs hold meetings and events, and which support many important local services such as village post offices and general stores."
According to the researchers' calculations, pubs that serve as community hubs can generate between £20,000 and £120,000 of "social value" each year. To qualify to have half of their business rates back, pubs would have to show how they serve local communities by offering such benefits as job opportunities or free space for charities.
British Beer and Pub Association chief executive Brigid Simmonds said: "We will be looking at these proposals in detail, but we can certainly agree with some of the key points - the immense social value of pubs, and the pressing need to address the huge increases in beer tax we have seen in recent years."
Communities Minister Bob Neill said: "This Government is already taking decisive action to support community pubs. We have doubled small business rate relief for two-and-a-half years, which gives up to 100% rate relief for small firms including pubs.
"Country pubs may also be eligible for rural business rate relief. On top of this, we have abolished the last government's cider tax, are cutting red tape on live music in pubs, and are stopping unfair sales of alcohol below cost-price by supermarkets."