Fight back on to save St Albans pubs from crippling business rate hike

Vince Cable (centre), Daisy Cooper (to the left of Cable) and Liberal Democrat business rates campai

Vince Cable (centre), Daisy Cooper (to the left of Cable) and Liberal Democrat business rates campaigners from across Hertfordshire - Credit: Archant

The fight is back on to save St Albans pubs from a business rate hike of tens of thousands of pounds.

A coalition of the city’s landlords has reformed the Save St Albans Pubs group to fight the increase, after several of them received new bills.

Landlord of The Boot, Sean Hughes, said: “We’re relaunching the campaign. The Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) want a £5K reduction in rates, which is good, but it’s a blanket.

“We’re talking about the south east of England. There are pubs in the country where the rates have gone down because they need support, and that’s great.”

Sean argues the £1,000 discount for properties valued under £100K offered by local councils is insufficient, as pubs like The Boot are valued over £100K.

He’s calculated he will have to sell 22,000 more pints a year to afford the increase.

“There is no incentive for pubs to do well, and they will not survive.”

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The Save St Albans Pubs group will be watching Parliament carefully, especially the autumn budget in November.

At the Liberal Democrat party conference, the party backed a motion by former St Albans parliamentary candidate Daisy Cooper to cap business rate increases for pubs.

Daisy said: “Business rates are not fit for purpose. The re-evaluation has led to an overall decrease in business rates that are payable in the St Albans district, but the muddled and outdated formula raises serious concerns about the level and impact of increases on specific businesses.

“It cannot be right that the overall rates for Amazon’s nine warehouses has gone down by £140,000, while the bill for many sole traders and St Albans businesses has gone up.

“It is absurd that business rates are linked to the rise in property prices not actual profitability or success.

“That’s why Liberal Democrats will campaign to allow local authorities to trial a different form of tax, based on the value of land not property prices, which would be a great equaliser.

“This new policy would give our local pubs and our many other small businesses the protection they need from these devastating and unfair changes.”

St Albans Labour group said they would also support a cap on business rate increases for pubs.

The party expressed its concern a rise of above 10 per cent would undermine the sustainability of some businesses.

Labour councillor Roma Mills said: “We have a great deal of sympathy for the pubs. We are also concerned about the impact on those schools and NHS facilities which also face above inflation rate increases.”

Meanwhile, St Albans MP Anne Main has used her parliamentary platform to protect St Albans pubs.

She has met with several publicans to discuss the issue, and has spoken to communities secretary Sajid Javid.

She said: “If we want to ensure the future of our historic British pubs, the government must look carefully at the business rates re-evaluation.”

This week is the 2017 St Albans beer and cider festival, where both CAMRA and Save St Albans Pubs will relaunch their campaigns.

CAMRA has said drinkers will pay the price of the increase in closed pubs and expensive rounds.

A government spokesman said: “The British pub is a national treasure and we’re backing communities that want to protect and run their local.

“We’ve already provided more than 9,000 pubs with a £1,000 discount on their businesses rates bill as part of our £435 million package of support for businesses. In addition, both pubs and their customers have saved over £2 billion since 2013 thanks to changes to alcohol duty.”