Budget beer tax ‘threat’ to town’s brewing jobs

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BURY St Edmunds is the UK capital of brewing, according to a study for the pub trade.

Fearing a beer tax hike in next week’s Budget, the British Beer Pubs Association says a study it commissioned from Oxford Economics shows the Bury St Edmunds parliamentary constituency has the largest number of brewing jobs of all constituencies.

With 2,186 employed in brewing and brewing-related industries, Bury St Edmunds constituency, which includes Stowmarket, even beats Burton on Trent, which has six more brewery sites but employs only 1,985. When pubs are added to the mix, the Cities of London and Westminster top the chart with 11,183 jobs.

According to the report brewing brings £68.8 million to the constituency’s economy.

As well as Greene King in Bury, and some micro breweries, there are also maltsters in Bury and Stowmarket producing malted barley used in brewing and distilling across the country. Even Scottish distilleries use malting barley from East Anglia.

The BBPA said: “A seven per cent rise in beer duty is currently forecast in the Budget, due to the Government’s beer duty ‘escalator, which plans a rise of two per cent above inflation. Scrapping plans for above inflation duty increases in the Budget could save over 10,000 jobs in 2011/2012.”

Bury MP David Ruffley is asking the BBPA for a better breakdown of the figures, but he said: “This report underlines the importance of the Greene King brewery, the maltsters and all the pubs in our area in generating wealth in the local economy.

“I’ve spoken to the Chancellor and he’s keen to discourage the cheap loss-leading sales of alcohol in supermarkets which undermine the establish pub trade.

“There’s going to be tax and price control so the supermarkets can’t sell alcohol cheaply but I’m not expecting there will be a big increase in the price of the average pint you buy in the pub.”

He also believes the Chancellor will aim taxes at stronger ciders and beers rather than the standard strength draught and bottled beers which make up most of those brewed locally.