Pubs across the East Staffordshire have been overcharged on their business rates by the covering up an official mistake in assessing the impact of the smoking ban, local Conservatives have revealed.
Andrew Griffiths, Conservative Parliamentary Candidate for Burton & Uttoxeter has learnt that following the introduction of the smoking ban in England and Wales in 2007, publicans who applied for a reduction in the rateable value of their premises were turned down on the grounds that there had been no material change to the way the pub was used.
Mr Griffiths accused the Government of failing to alert landlords to the change in guidance, which was updated in June this year, leaving them in the dark about the potential for saving thousands of pounds.
“Local pubs are a vital part of our social fabric and community life. Whilst massive pub chains may be making money out of Labour’s 24 drinking laws, small everyday pubs are suffering from the onslaught of higher beer taxes, a weakening economy, supermarkets selling alcohol below cost price and the public smoking ban.
“Whatever people’s views on the smoking ban, it has been a significant change that has affected many pubs. A £5,000 reduction in the rateable value of their business could save publicans £2,200 a year, at a time when the British Beer and Pub Association estimates that pubs are closing at the rate of 27 a week.
“The Government’s own tax inspectors have now admitted that pubs may be eligible for refunds on their business rates, but pub owners are being intentionally kept in the dark on this U-turn. I think is is unacceptable that publicans in Burton could have missed out on this saving because the government chose to cover up there mistake/. I would urge all publicans to contact the Valuations Office to clarify of they are eligible for a refund”
“Ministers are only interested in changing the local tax regime when it raises extra money for Gordon Brown’s coffers. Yet again, Labour’s taxmen have been caught red-handed fiddling the system to make families and firms pay more than they should. Thanks to Whitehall secrecy and this stealth pub tax, local firms are going to the wall and everyday pub goers are being hit in the wallet.”