Less than a week ago I wrote a blog explaining that I won’t be blogging again until after December 1, when hopefully my book will be submitted. Clearly that’s not working out too well.
The thing is, from time to time you come across something that, for one reason or another, you feel the need to express an opinion on. A blog is the perfect opportunity to do that. This week I have stumbled upon a story so mind-blowingly, butt-clenchingly, heart-stoppingly, un-bloody-believably outrageous that if I don’t write a blog about it my head will explode. So this blog is for the good of my health.
The thing is, this outrageous story keeping me from my higher purpose of meeting my publishers deadline actually broke a couple of weeks ago and somehow I missed it in my post-holiday transition to life, so it my be old news to you. The story is this:
The Government is thinking about introducing a tax on pubs which are ‘too nice’.
Can you believe that? Putting an extra tax on something just because it is successful!
Things that may mark a pub out for additional tax are things like offering pool, darts or skittles. These are the sorts of things that make a pub an asset to the community. These are often back street locals, not the big, flashy town centre pubs. They build a pub culture, not just a drinking culture and become an extension of people’s front rooms.
Other things that might result in extra tax is providing children’s play areas, or food. In short, the kind of things that they have to do just to survive. Even cultivating a ‘friendly’ atmosphere could cost them!
And get this: another thing that could incur extra tax is if they offer extra services such as a Post Office. Now that just takes the biscuit! The reason that pubs provide a Post Office service is because this Government has shut the real post Offices. They are providing a much needed service, especially for small, rural communities. It is clearly true that no good deed goes unpunished.
On its own, this idea would seem outrageous. After all, would they consider putting extra tax on a grocers because they provide an off licence service or sell newspapers? If you decided to improve your career options by investing in qualifications would you expect to be more heavily taxed as a result? Not more heavily taxed because you are earning more, you note, just because you have done something to improve your chances.
But this has not come on its own. It comes at a time when pubs are already struggling to survive. Beer is already taxed within an inch of its life, pubcos are squeezing landlords for every penny and the smoking ban is causing people to stay away. Pubs are shutting at a record rate.
On the face of it, the answer is clearly cash generation. The government is sorely strapped for cash and this will help. But it won’t. As more taxes are added, people stay away from the pub. Over a year ago it was reported that although tax had gone up, revenue to the Government had dropped dramatically. As landlords fail to cope, pubs close and people end up on the dole: another drain on scare Government resources.
Now, say what you like about Gordon Brown, but you don’t get to be Prime Minister by being stupid: he must know this. The only possible reason then is that this is a concerted and deliberate effort to drive pubs to extinction. Gordon Brown is the son of a minister of the Church of Scotland, does he have some religious zealots dislike of the pub, waging a one man temperance campaign under the disguise of taxation? It looks like it to me.
The trouble is, what are our alternatives? David Cameron doesn’t strike me as the sort of bloke who enjoys a pint in the pub either. I fear the pub may be doomed.