Brewers and pubs have been “left in limbo” after the government has announced delays to the next phase of changes to the alcohol duty system.
Draft legislation was set to be published this summer, to be consulted on before being introduced through the 2022/2023 finance bill.
Ministers have been looking at how to introduce changes to alcohol duty, including a lower rate for draught beer and clubs so pubs can compete with the cheaper drinks sold by supermarkets.
However, brewers and hospitality businesses have said they are disappointed that this legislation has been pushed back to the autumn.
“With the [hospitality] sector and its customers facing soaring costs, we needed to see positive action on lower duty rates for draught beer and cider,” Kate Nicholls, CEO of UKHospitality, which represents more than 730 firms, said.
The trade body chief called on the new government to make the legislation a priority in early September, so businesses and punters could feel the benefits.
The Society of Independent Brewers (SIBA) was also disappointed with the delay and said independent brewers had been “waiting on tenterhooks” to hear the next stages of reforms.
The delay endangers the timetable for implementation, with little time to consult on changes in the autumn, SIBA Chair Roy Allkin said.
“Many small and independent brewers have already made business decisions for next year that rely on these widespread changes to duty being introduced on time and any delay will create further uncertainty,” he added.
Brewers and pubs had been “left in limbo at a time when businesses need support as they have to deal with a multitude of supply constraints and the cost of living crisis,” Allkin added.
The trade body called on ministers to pledge to implement changes in February next year and ensure small businesses could benefit from a new draught duty rate as soon as possible.
However, the Wine and Spirit Trade Association (WSTA) welcomed the government’s plans to delay responding to the alcohol duty review and said it was a “welcome and sensible pause.”
The industry organisation said it hoped the new Chancellor would ensure “plans for changing alcohol tax are fairer, simpler and are delivered with less red tape.”
“With inflation continuing to climb to its highest rate for 40 years we hope that by working with the new Treasury team we can ensure that this once in a lifetime chance to reform the system does not add to consumer misery and bring with it higher prices and less consumer choice,” WSTA chief executive, Miles Beale, added.
A Treasury spokesperson said: “We understand businesses are looking for certainty, and that is why we are fully committed to delivering our historic alcohol duty reforms, which replaces outdated rules with a common-sense approach to tax beer, wine and spirits in the same way, supports craft brewers through a new Small Producer Relief, and cuts draught beer and cider duty to inject £100m back into pubs”.