Chancellor is going beyond the binge

VIDEO On Wednesday, Alistair Darling will deliver his first budget as chancellor. But he is not expected to sip from a glass of whiskey - as many chancellors before him traditionally have.

Tom Potter

ON Wednesday, Alistair Darling will deliver his first budget as chancellor.

But he is not expected to sip from a glass of whiskey - as many chancellors before him traditionally have.

Perhaps it has something to do with the government's plans to levy further increases on the price of alcohol.

For the first time in a decade, taxes could be hiked on spirits, while wine could also be hit.

And according to one Felixstowe landlord, the government's firm approach to binge drinking could finally ring the death knell for pubs.

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Patrick Wroe, 62, has been in charge at The Half Moon for last ten years.

While he accepts Britain's boozy binge-drinking culture has to be tackled, he believes hitting pub owners by raising tax is not the answer.

Mr Wroe said: “We are just a traditional pub where people can come for a drink or two. We don't serve food or have fruit machines and we've been very fortunate not to lose any custom over the last few years, particularly since the smoking ban.

“However, we're not complacent enough to pretend it won't happen if prices keep going up.

“I'm not saying people don't have a few drinks in here but they are responsible about how much they drink.

“People don't binge drink in pubs. They simply can't afford to. Supermarkets are now selling alcohol for less than I can buy it for.”

Duty on a bottle of wine is currently £1.33, up 4p on the 2006 budget. In Spain, Germany and Italy, consumers pay nothing.

Mr Wroe said he is so incensed by the threat of tax hikes that he posted a notice in the pub informing customers of the proposals.

He said: “All are in agreement with the poster. There is a sense of doom felt by everyone involved with the pub.

“People hear about the tax rise and only expect to pay that much more when they come in after the budget. But I still need to make some kind of profit so I'm forced to increase the prices even further.

“I don't know how Alistair Darling thinks but he doesn't appear to be changing his mind on this.”

The Conservatives last week announced they were in support of higher taxes on some alcohol products amid concerns over drunken behaviour.

David Cameron's Tories have pledged to raise tax on super-strength beer, cider and alcopops if they win the next general election, using the money to reduce tax on low-strength beer and cider.

A £2 can of super-strength beer would rise in price to £2.38, while a £1.25 litre of strong cider would rise to £1.66. Alcopops costing around £1.25 a bottle would cost £1.79.

Cameron said: “Millions of people in this country work hard all day and want to have a couple of pints at the pub with their mates.

“You shouldn't be penalised for that.”

Should the government do more to protect the country's pubs? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.u

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