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Jeremy Beadls, blog February/March

Published:  02 March, 2010

Another Spring, another Budget looming and the wine and spirit industry swings into crisis preparation mode.

Another Spring, another Budget looming and the wine and spirit industry swings into crisis preparation mode. 

Predictions for dates and rates do the rounds and the trade puts the finishing touches on contingency plans and crosses its collective fingers that the Chancellor chooses the least worst option. You know things are bad when an industry considers itself lucky to only have one tax rise in a year and those predicting a hike of 5% are seen as starry eyed optimists. 

Despite the fact the majority of voters think alcohol tax is too high, duty rates on alcohol are too easy for politicians and the media to be complacent about. The trade and ordinary drinkers are seen as the gift that keeps giving, the golden goose that keeps on laying. What's more to Treasury ears, calls for higher prices sound like demands for bigger duty hikes.

The truth is the industry is in a far more fragile position. Treasury figures for 2009/10 show last year's tax hikes actually resulted in a reduction in revenue for the Treasury. We have seen big players in the industry fall and companies seriously reconsider selling their product into the UK and keeping their staff and offices here.

Let's not forget that it isn't just the duty, though that is hard enough. It is bureaucracy, it is regulations dreamt up to generate headlines, it is the inability to plan because you don't know what will be thrown at you next.

In the States, we have seen ordinary people organising protests called tea parties to proclaim that they are 'Taxed Enough Already'. It isn't surprising that are seeing the same frustrations here. A recent poll showed only 8% of voters support a rise in alcohol duty. Both the trade and ordinary drinkers are getting tired of paying for the party.

No shocker then that a new campaign website on alcohol tax gained hundreds of members in its first few days. With the support of the trade, this campaign will make politicians and journalists sit up and listen to what the public know already. Our drinks are taxed enough and our businesses are stretched to breaking point. Pay a visit to and tell politicians, "Enough is enough".
Jeremy Beadles, chief executive, Wine & Spirit Trade Association