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Pub closures ‘weakening community life’

Campaigners have warned community life is being weakened by the closure of local pubs, which are struggling under a ‘triple whammy’ of high beer duty, rapidly rising business rates and VAT.

New figures released today by the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) show that 18 pubs are closing a week around the country, with the hardest hit areas being Greater London and the East Midlands.

The figures show that between January and July this year a total of 476 pubs called last orders, compared to 463 in the last six months of 2017.

CAMRA have also released details of a YouGov survey, which shows four out of five Brits have seen a local pub close in the last five years.

According to the survey, a massive 80% of people who expressed an opinion have witnessed at least one pub close, and 21% have seen five or more close.

The campaigning group has claimed these figures reveal the huge obstacles facing pubs, which are struggling under a triple whammy of high beer duty, rapidly rising business rates and VAT.

As a result, a third of the cost of a pint is now made up of various taxes.

“The latest YouGov findings, coupled with our own pub closure figures, paint a dismal picture for our pubs,” said CAMRA national chairman, Jackie Parker.

“As taxes continue to rise, more people are choosing to drink at home and as a consequence, pubs are closing down. It’s a vicious cycle.

“Pub closures make us all poorer by reducing overall tax revenues raised by the pub sector and weakening community life in areas where valued pubs close. Fundamental change is needed if the British pub is to survive for future generations. We are urging the Government to take action to secure the future of our pubs by relieving the tax burden.”

But in some parts of the country, communities are fighting back and launching campaigns to buy and re-open village pubs.

In February, New Start reported that a community group had launched a share to raise a minimum of £250,000 to buy and reopen the Golden Lion in Ashton Hayes in Cheshire, which has been closed for the last five years.

The Plunkett Foundation added to CAMRA’s call on the Government to make supportive policies for pubs to thrive, with an additional call for them to support charities operating in this space to ensure there is sufficient support for communities who are picking up the pieces to take them on through community ownership, when there is no other alternative.

The executive director of the Plunkett Foundation, James Alcock, said ‘The community ownership model can offer a lifeline for communities who are at risk of losing their local pub, and once saved can offer a long-term solution to the community.

‘Out of 69 community pubs currently trading across the UK, the oldest of which was saved in 1987, none have ever closed. This 100% survival rate is in part owing to the wider services and activities they offer to communities including shops, post offices, library services, healthcare provision, allotments and much more.

‘They essentially become a thriving hub at the heart of their communities, open to all, and addressing a wider range of social issues such as loneliness, poor health, and limited employment opportunity,’ added Mr Alcock.

Jamie Hailstone
Senior reporter - NewStart

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