By Harry Fone, grassroots campaign manager at the TaxPayers’ Alliance
This week millions of Brits will raise a glass to Her Majesty The Queen to celebrate the platinum jubilee. One pub chain was so keen to help the festivities that it slashed the price of a pint of beer. On Monday, Greene King pubs across the country were offering pints of its IPA for just six pence! Why six pence I hear you ask? Well, according to Greene King this was the average cost of a pint in 1952 when the Queen ascended to the throne.
Compare this to modern-day Britain, where the average price of a pint is £4.07. In London, it’s an astronomical £4.84, with some pubs charging close to £7 a pint! But even allowing for 70 years of inflation it shouldn’t cost this much. Using the Bank of England’s inflation calculator, we can see that a pint should only cost around £1.20. So what’s gone wrong? Why is one of the nation’s most loved tipples almost three and a half times more expensive than you would expect it to be?
It may come as no surprise that excessive taxation shares part of the blame. Since 1993, beer duty has risen sharply, almost doubling in fact. Consequently, the UK has the third-highest duty on beer compared to EU member states. That means that on a five per cent pint of beer the duty is 53 pence. But it gets worse for pub-goers. as our research from last year shows. Once you factor in VAT at 20 per cent - which it’s worth noting is also added to the beer duty, so that’s a tax on top of a tax - a further 63 pence is added to the cost of a pint. So every time you buy a pint at the bar, around one-third of the price is tax!
The rising cost of beer is having a significant impact on Britain’s boozers. The latest figures from the Campaign For Real Ale (CAMRA) reveal that 290 pubs “were demolished or converted to another use” in 2021. Pubs are closing at a rate of more than five per week. That’s why the TaxPayers’ Alliance has long campaigned for a better deal for Britain’s landlords and pub patrons.
In last year’s Budget, the chancellor laid the groundwork for some much-needed reforms to beer and alcohol duties. It was a welcome signal of support to the pub and hospitality industry but more must be done. We continue to push for more cuts in duties and reforms to the wider tax system.
With the sustained tax burden today at the highest level it has been since before Queen Elizabeth II came to the throne, beer duty is one tax we all desperately want to see cut. So here's to Her Majesty The Queen and to the hope of cheaper pints!