Jeremy Hunt’s first budget will not bring any real support to the hospitality industry, says the boss of Norfolk’s largest brewery.
Joe Parks, CEO of Woodforde’s, said the chancellor’s announcements will not come close to tackling the mounting pressures faced by the industry.
The industry, like many, has been ravaged by rising inflation and spiralling energy bills – something Woodforde’s knows all too well.
No relief measures were announced to combat those energy bills, with existing support for licensees set to end on April 1. Support for households has been extended, however.
“Everyone needs help with the energy bills,” Mr Parks said. “Our energy bills are three times higher than they were 12 months ago, but had at one point increased by 600% and were climbing by the day.
“Hundreds of pubs are closing every month now. Really good ones are calling it a day because they feel it is no longer worth it for them to stay open – and it is a similar situation for coffee shops and cafes too.
“The government needs to focus like a laser beam on helping them with their energy bills. If you take energy inflation out of the marketplace, everything should fall back into place over time.
“Energy inflation is at the heart of the challenges we are all facing.”
Mr Parks did however welcome the extension of energy support for households – but added a freeze on beer duty will not go far enough to provide pubs the support they need.
Alcohol duty will increase by 10.1% in August, although the government has extended the draught beer discount – which should see duty frozen at the current level for draught beverages in pubs.
Mr Parks added: “This freeze in duty is not a game changer that will lead to cheaper pints. Our hard-working pub sector and its customers need and deserve more support.
“Anything they can do to help people feel that they can go out and enjoy an affordable treat, rather than feeling like they are only existing and trying to get through this crisis, will make a real difference to their lives and wellbeing.
“Pubs need help now, not in August. And more needs to be done to support them with their energy bills.”
Mr Parks’ views have been echoed by leading pressure group CAMRA, who also warned communities could lose their local pubs as a result of energy support ending.
“It would be very upsetting to see more pubs close,” Mr Parks said. “Pubs have been at the very heart of British life for hundreds of years.
“There is nothing better than a great British pub – you don’t get that cosy, supportive feeling of a local where you know everyone anywhere else.
“It is really tough and we really want to get behind them and see they survive. We want to do anything we can to help them through this, but the government needs to act.”
Woodforde’s commitment to quality will continue despite the lack of support outlined in the budget, with the brewery dedicated to making the best beer for Norfolk – and flying the flag for the county nationwide.
“We are all about making beer that sings,” Mr Parks added. “We will keep our costs down as much as possible and continue to offer good value, but we will never compromise on quality. We only use the very best Norfolk Maris Otter barley and it really makes a difference.
“We have tried to be reasonable throughout this crisis, making only small price increases and delaying them as much as possible to try and help our customers adjust throughout the colder winter months.
“My job is to ensure Woodforde’s is a big part of the community in Norfolk and never abuse our position.
“I’ve worked in the industry give or take since 1996. And every year things seem to get tougher.
“But despite all the tough times and the problems we face, it is still an absolutely fabulous industry to be in.”
More information on Woodforde’s award-winning beers and the company’s upcoming developments can be found at woodfordes.com.