At the 11th Bristol Cider Festival, held in Brunel’s historic Old Station at Temple Meads, hundreds of local cider drinkers raised their glasses to our ‘Cut Cider Tax’ campaign and signed our petition calling for an end to the Cider Duty Escalator. Even the Mangled Wurzels tribute band took time out from their West Country music set to tell the crowd to sign our petition!
Earlier that day they’d heard South West TPA speaking on BBC Radio Bristol and BBC Radio Somerset. Martin Thatcher, managing director of the family-owned Thatchers cider-making company, located down the road near Weston-super-Mare, spoke out in support of the campaign.
‘We cider-makers believe it is unfair that the beer escalator has been taken off and they haven’t done the same for the cider industry,’ said Martin. ‘It’s unfair on a rural based industry and what is quintessentially a British drink. The cider industry is quite different from most other drinks industries in that we have to make very long-term commitments and particularly to growing apples. We contract with growers for the next 25-30 years to grow apples for us and therefore we need a stable regime with no spanners thrown in the works that effects everyone’s confidence.’
Chris Lilley is managing director of Lilley’s Cider Barn, the Somerset brewing company behind the Bristol Cider Festival. ‘We produce and distribute a wide range of ciders and perrys throughout Somerset,’ he said, ‘and any reduction in tax helps us invest more in producing the different varieties that our customers like.’
Among those on offer at the festival included Black Death and Badger’s Spit, but the consensus of favourites among TPA supporters were Pheasant Plucker, Lilley’s Firedancer and Bee Sting Pear Cider. The Chancellor should give them a taste…
In the meantime, another West Country MP has joined our campaign.
‘Cider is the iconic drink of the West Country with centuries of history and tradition in the region,’ says Neil Parish, MP for Tiverton and Honiton in Devon. ‘However, cider producers are suffering because of the bad weather effecting their crop and responsible drinkers are seeing a quarter of the price they pay for a pint of cider going to the taxman. The current tax on cider is bad for consumers and producers alike. All we are asking for is the same cut in duty for cider that beer has already been afforded.’