Pub landlords in H&F have labelled budget tax hikes on alcohol as 'bordering on insanity' after the price of a pint rose yet again.
Chancellor George Osborne this week realised publicans' worst fears when he refused to scrap Labour's controversial duty escalator, which means tax on alcohol will rise on Sunday by 7.2 per cent, two per cent above inflation.
Landlords, including Mark Gourdie of The Chancery in Lillie Road, Fulham, and Tom Gavaghan of The Andover Arms, Hammersmith, had warned in a special Chronicle report a fortnight ago that further rises would again damage trade, which has been decimated over the last four years by a stream of tax increases.
They had been hoping for a freeze at the very least but instead were lumped with rises of four pence on a pint, 54p on a bottle of spirits and 15p on a bottle of wine, which will probably equate to more for customers after brewery charges.
The lobby group CAMRA (Campaign for Real Ale) calculates duty and VAT on a pint is now over £1.
Mr Gavaghan said: "I'm normally a positive person but I really think this is bordering on insanity. It's another nail in the coffin.
"I have tried to soak up everything, from the the VAT hike to the increases in duty, but I don't think I can protect the customers any longer. I really thought the government were going to freeze it this time, but we've been hammered again."
Mr Gavaghan also dismissed as 'worthless' Mr Osborne's decision to half tax on beers under 2.8 per cent while raising it on super strength lagers.
"Hardly anyone drinks the strong stuff anyway and no one drinks the really weak products. It's basically like drinking water. That will make no difference. People who drink the middle percentage lagers, the majority, are going to be hit hardest."
Mr Gourdie agrees. "Even if people were to drink weak lager, it wouldn't be cheaper in the long run anyway because they'll need to have a lot more to get the desired effect. I can only think of about three products on the market like that anyway and I doubt it will have an impact on binge drinking."
He added: "The industry has been crucified and it's going to cost 1000s of jobs. We always seem to be the scapegoat. I am very concerned about the future."
Mike Benner, CAMRA chief executive, said: "It is incredible to consider that Britain’s beer drinkers are forced to endure the second highest rate of beer tax in Europe, particularly when the Prime Minister promised a 'pub friendly government' with the pub at the heart of the Big Society.
"By penalising the vast majority of responsible pub goers, the government is not getting to the root of the problem, which remains cheap alcohol sold in an irresponsible manner in the off trade.
"While it is welcome to see the government introducing measures to recognise the benefits of beer as a low alcohol drink, we hope the Government will work with the EU and the wider industry to secure a change in EU rules to increase today’s threshold to 3.5% ABV to further benefit Britain’s beer drinkers."