Norfolk publicans reeling over cider tax rise

Mary HamiltonPubs and cider producers are reeling after being hit with a shock 10pc rise in tax on cider in yesterday's budget.Mary Hamilton

Pubs and cider producers are reeling after being hit with a shock 10pc rise in tax on cider in yesterday's budget.

Chancellor Alistair Darling announced the deeply unpopular move along with a 1pc increase on the duty on all other alcohol, adding 9p to a 75cl bottle of sparkling cider and 3p to a pint of still cider.

The tax hike adds 2p to a pint of beer, 36p to a 70cl bottle of spirits, and 10p to a bottle of wine, and the definition of cider is to be reconsidered so that stronger versions can be taxed more.

Robert Crone, who runs Crones Organic Cider in Kenninghall with his partner, said: 'Just when you thought the worst was over, something like this happens.

'It's bad enough having to absorb other increases like fuel duty and overheads but we won't be able to absorb this.

'Big producers have agreements in place with big pub chains and they have more room to make savings, but for a small tightly-run craft cider producer efficiency savings are just impossible.'

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Sue Coleman, chairman of Norfolk Licensed Victuallers' Association, said: 'Most producers of cider are in this country and I think it's a shame to target British industry.

'People only have so much money in their pockets and this will affect how many times a week they can afford to go out - and we still have this huge competition with the supermarkets which is not really being addressed.'

Aspiring brewer Jenny Nicholls, who hopes to open Northcote Brewery in the city centre in the next few weeks, said: 'It doesn't seem a level playing field - people who try to make a good quality artisan product get hammered.

'It keeps getting more and more expensive to buy alcohol or to go to the pub and it impacts everyone in the industry.'

There has been public outcry against the cider duty and last night a Facebook protest group set up by Norfolk student Jono Read had attracted massive support, gaining more than 4,000 members within a few hours of the announcement.

Chris Higgins, landlord of the Trafford Arms, said: 'A recent round of brewery price increases, attributed to escalating costs, has yesterday been followed up with a whopping budget increase.

'This will add further weight to the already heavy financial burdens befalling pubs - recent increases to our business rates, continually spiralling utility costs, maintenance and repairs and unbelievable levels of bureaucracy.'