If the Great British Pub is to survive we need VAT to be kept low for longer, pleads TV chef Tom Kerridge

If the Great British Pub is to survive we need VAT to be kept low for longer, pleads TV chef Tom Kerridge

February 10, 2021

THE hospitality, leisure and tourism sectors are being clobbered by the pandemic, with many firms teetering on the brink or closing altogether.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s VAT reduction to five per cent was a welcome support but is due to end on March 31.

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So The Sun is calling for it to be kept low in next month’s Budget to help save jobs.

Here business owners, including chef Tom Kerridge and Merlin’s Nick Varney, tell us how that would help them.

'Pubs are in danger'

By Tom Kerridge

PUBS are more than just a place to have a pint — they are where we meet to say cheers or shed some tears.

Where the lonely find a warm welcome and someone to talk to and neighbours go from being strangers to friends.

Even when Covid forced all 46,000 of Britain’s pubs to close their doors, they remained the lifeblood of our towns and villages.

Over the last year, as they always have, publicans up and down the country worked tirelessly to take care of the vulnerable in their communities.

Feeding children when free school meals weren’t available, cooking meals for the elderly, delivering vital supplies for the sick and isolating, and keeping NHS workers going with hot meals.

At my pub, the Hand and Flowers in Marlow, Bucks, we are fast approaching the 100,000 mark feeding people in need through our Meals from Marlow scheme — and that’s just one pub.

This was happening in communities across the country, with locals doing what they could to help out.


For all these reasons and more we love our pubs. But they are in danger.

Even before the pandemic hit Britain was losing a pub every 20 hours.

Last year we lost thousands more and this year the numbers are likely to rise further, with many staying shut long after lockdown ends.

If the Great British Pub is to survive this, we all need to help.

No one in the industry is asking for a handout but pubs do need a hand up.

When they are allowed to open their doors again, I know people will flock back like they did last summer.

But we also need our politicians to back British pubs, and all the jobs and communities that rely on them.

Pubs need our Prime Minister and the Chancellor to do two things in the Budget next month — extend the temporary five per cent VAT rate in place for hospitality until at least the end of the year and to give businesses like pubs a further break from paying business rates.

These small steps will go a long way to help save not just our pubs but Britain’s restaurants, hotels, cafés, B&Bs and the like.

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EVEN when they reopen, pubs will need all the Government help they can get.

So many are in dire straits.

So Rishi Sunak should extend his VAT cut, to five per cent for hospitality firms, for the rest of the year and maybe beyond.

Jabs look set to end this crisis. A VAT cut will be the shot in the arm our pubs need.

If the Government sees fit to extend these measures even further to help wedding venues and bowling alleys, for example, even more businesses and jobs would survive.

In normal times, the hospitality industry employs more than three million and that’s without taking into account all jobs in the other industries that rely on us — the farms and fisheries, the brewers, the butchers and the bakers.

As we come out of lockdown and get control of the virus, we need all of these businesses to boom to help our economy recover.

After hugging your nan, going to the pub for a glass of the usual is the thing most of us are looking forward to doing again.

When we were able to open again last summer people flocked back to their local and they could do so because of all the time, money and effort publicans everywhere put in to make it safe.

Every pub spent hundreds if not thousands of pounds to put the right measures in place and protect people.


And, as the Government’s own figures show, it worked ­brilliantly, with millions enjoying meals out and infections remaining incredibly low.

Now, over the course of the past year, many of these businesses have been shut as much as they have been allowed to be open.

They are on their knees and we all need to help them back on their feet.

So, I am urging everyone to remember that pubs mean more than just pints. They are about people and communities and they are a precious part of our culture.

Jobs are on the line, the heart of the community is, too, and pubs need that little bit of help to give them the best chance to bounce back from this crisis.

We all deserve the chance to celebrate and enjoy a drink once we are through this, so let’s hope we are raising a glass to Rishi after Budget day.

'Our costs are astronomical'

RESTAURATEUR and hotelier Hannah Springham says the past year has been a financial nightmare.

The mum of two, 39, said: “We can’t afford to start paying VAT [at 20 per cent].”

Along with husband Andrew Jones, 40, Hannah owns The Dial House, a boutique hotel in Reepham, Norfolk, and the upmarket Farmyard Bistro in Norwich.

The couple have been in business for four years and employ around 40 people.

She said: “It’s very hard to make money in hospitality unless you have high numbers of customers — this past year has shown that.

“Our costs are astronomical and we are haemorrhaging money. Without more help, we are all going to really struggle.

“It is absolutely vital the VAT reduction is extended. We desperately need it.”

Businesses will fail without more support, she predicts — with a knock-on effect to the economy.

She said: “Ultimately firms going bust is not good for anyone. Suppliers get hit too.”

Not just fun, it’s also jobs

By Nick Varney, CEO of Merlin Entertainments

FAMILIES and the economy would both enjoy a much-needed boost if the VAT reduction for struggling industries is extended for another year.

The danger is that, just as we come into spring and people want to get out, leisure, tourism and hospitality firms are forced to put prices up.

It is about fun days out again for people who need it.

We need to make ­people happier, quicker.

If you take the reduction away — VAT was slashed from 20 per cent to five per cent last year as support for sectors until March 31 — it is going to take a lot longer to get the economy going.

We can bounce back quicker under the right conditions.

Raising VAT would be the wrong thing to do at the wrong time.

But it is not only about having fun again, it is about jobs that go with it.

Tourism is incredibly important to the UK, while hospitality is our third biggest industry.

An extension to the VAT break would cost up to £1billion but eventually generate more than that in tax receipts.

'I had no pay for 6 months'

PUB owner Tim Foster has lost almost 70 per cent of his business income this year and says his pubs will struggle to survive without proper government support.

The Yummy Pubs landlord said: “Any form of support is welcomed. This year has been about trying to save the team as much as possible.”

Staff numbers have dropped from 103 to 62.

Mr Foster added: “I didn’t pay myself for the first six months. Now I take a third of what I would normally to keep my staff paid.

“We can help the economy trade out of this recession. People are desperate to socialise and we are in the position to help that and ignite the economy.

“The VAT reduction is the bare minimum. They should be delayed for a year, if not two.

"We haven’t been able to use any of the different support schemes but we need a business that can operate and trade to make use of them.”

'Pubs cannot hold on longer'

MARK Robson, managing director of Red Mist Leisure, says the VAT reduction is the least the Government can do to get the hospitality industry on track.

Mark said: “We’ve got to a point now where we are nearly 12 months in and people’s fingernails are falling off because they can’t hold on to the cliff any longer.

“We will start seeing business fail on a very big scale soon.

"We can help get out of this recession but the Government has got to throw some crumbs our way and make sure that we’ve got the tools to help us enable that.

“If we had a promise of some back, we could invest in the pubs while they’re closed which would put loads of money into the local economy.

"But with the Chancellor staying tight-lipped, we’re all too worried about the extra financial impact.

“If the VAT is kept at five per cent, we know that we will be able to recover some of the losses we incurred in the past 12 months.”

  • Do you want to help save your local pub? Write to your MP using the template online at www.ukhospitality.org.uk/page/ WritetoyourMP, urging them to support hospitality venues by extending the VAT cut and the business rates holiday

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