David Cunningham: A pint and a chat at the pub is under threat

David Cunningham is Programme Director for 'Long Live The Local'
David Cunningham is Programme Director for 'Long Live The Local'
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Recently we’ve seen the launch of Long Live The Local, a UK-wide ­campaign to rally all pubgoers and Governments to support vital local pubs up and down the country.

With three pubs closing their doors for good every day, they need our ­support.

The reason for these closures? A wide range of pressures, but none more so than an unfair and increasing tax burden in the form of beer duty, business rates and VAT.

A shocking £1 in every £3 spent in a pub goes straight to the taxman, meaning on average, each pub in the UK pays more than £140,000 a year in tax – and it’s set to increase further in the next budget.

I know first-hand the important role local pubs play in villages, towns and cities across the UK.

My own local of the last 20 years, The Wheatsheaf, is a unique public place for the diverse local community to gather and enjoy each ­other’s company over great food and drinks.

The Wheatsheaf is reflective of local pubs across Scotland and the rest of the UK, and our recent ­campaign research showed that two in three of us describe our local pub as a social centre that brings our community together.

In fact, local pubs are so good at bringing our communities together that 54 per cent of us are happy to ­visit our local pub alone, knowing that we’ll enjoy a chat with staff, neighbours or other locals.

It’s no surprise then that 40 million of us visit the pub each year and more than 15 million of us are regulars, ­visiting our local at least once a month.

Of course, pubs are not just of social and cultural importance – the pub and beer industry combined ­contribute £23 billion in GDP and pay £13 ­billion in tax every year. Pubs also support almost 600,000 jobs, of which 44 per cent are filled by 16-24 year olds – not to mention jobs ­created by supporting industries like brewing and farming.

The Government cannot keep ­taking our pubs for granted and ­continue to ignore the pressures they are placing on them.

Long Live The Local will celebrate the role pubs play in modern culture, whilst also highlighting the jeopardy they face from a range of taxes, ­calling on the UK Government for a cut in beer duty, as opposed to the year-on-year increases they have planned.

We will also be highlighting the campaign to politicians and the ­Government at Holyrood, who play an equally important role in ensuring the future of pubs across Scotland. Pubs are an integral part of Scotland’s tourism offer, with the local being the first stop for many tourists discovering our cities, towns and villages.

In just over three weeks, our ­campaign website has received more than 80,000 visits, with 27,000 ­people signing our petition to cut beer tax and more than 10,000 writing to their MP to show just how much they value their local pub.

This is a great start, but if we want to drive a change to the planned beer duty policy then we need the widest possible support.

I urge anyone reading this who loves pubs to throw their support behind the campaign. Firstly, visit your local pub and enjoy the great food, drink and company of others it offers.

Then visit our website www.longlivethelocal.pub to sign the ­petition to cut beer tax, write to your MP to show how valuable your local is to you and, if you run a pub, request a point-of-sale kit to show your pub’s support for the ­campaign.

David Cunningham is ­programme director for Long Live The Local, the new campaign from Britain’s Beer Alliance. See www.longlivethelocal.pub