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Drinks trade nervously anticipates Budget

Published:  19 March, 2014

As time runs out before the 2014 Budget is announced later today, the drinks trade nervously shuffles its papers following a hard-fought campaign to scrap the duty escalator.

While the Wine & Spirits Trade Association, Scotch Whisky Association and TaxPayers' Alliance managed to galvanise the trade into lobbying their MPs about the devastating impact another duty increase would have on jobs and the wider economy, it remains to be seen whether Chancellor George Osborne will have taken notice. The trade, via the Call Time on Duty campaign, wants the planned 2%+ inflation increase - equivalent to 10-12p on a bottle of wine - to be scrapped.

In an effort to distract from the usual main Budget news of granny and bedroom taxes, Osborne has today, via Twitter, announced a new 12-sided pound coin, which will come into use in 2017.

Last week senior figures in the trade said that while they were hopeful the case would be heard by the Treasury, even if the campaign is not successful this year, momentum is building for the longterm.

The WSTA's chief executive Miles Beale said: ""The best case scenario would be if the Chancellor sees sense in calling time on duty and introduces an inflationary freeze, which would provide some much needed relief for the industry, consumers and pubs after six years of inflation busting increases. It is important to note that we are not actually asking for a cut in duty but simply for the escalator to be scrapped one year early and for duty to be frozen.

"Any decision by the Chancellor to use the escalator for another year would be disappointing. It would also be very hard to understand given independent research from Ernst and Young has found scrapping it would boost the public finances by £230 million in 2014 alone and create 6,000 jobs."

You can follow our live Budget coverage from 12.30pm on our website and on Twitter @harperswine using the #Budget hashtag.