Labour and the Conservatives have set out plans to woo the battered pubs sector, with both parties promising help to preserve community pubs.
In its manifesto, Labour said it wanted "greater protection for the local institutions local people value". And it reiterated its threat to take action against pubcos if they did not offer licensees a "non-tie" option. It also signalled a move to curb restrictive covenants and promised to cut red tape, making it easier for pubs to offer other services.
Meanwhile the Tories placed community pubs high on the agenda, with a commitment to allow local people the "right to buy" their local pub if its future was under threat.
In a visit to the Fuller's brewery in London on Monday, Conservative party leader David Cameron indicated that the party was opposed to Labour's plan to raise cider duty by 10%. And although he conceded that high-strength ciders, lagers and alcopops should be taxed, Cameron said his party didn't want to tax "the typical pint in the pub".
On a more general note, the Tories promised to stop the "most damaging part" of Labour's proposed 1p rise in National Insurance but stopped short of scrapping it completely. The party also indicated that there would be no National Insurance for new businesses on their first 10 employees, and that it would cut the headline rate of Corporation Tax to 25p and the small companies' rate to 20p.
It added that councils would be given new powers to introduce further reductions on business rates.
Labour said it wanted to see the national minimum wage rise in line with average earnings.
The pledges came a week after the British Hospitality Association said it wanted to see an end to bureaucracy and over-regulation, as it set out its own demands. Its manifesto included calls on the new government to:
- Support jobs by doing away with National Insurance increases planned for 2011
- Resist the temptation to "punish" hotels and restaurants for alcohol-related anti-social behaviour and health problems through "an almost constant tinkering" with licensing law in England, Scotland and Wales
- Commit to taking hospitality and tourism seriously and for the Department of Culture Media and Sport to communicate more effectively with other government departments
- Change capital allowances to make them better suited to hotel development, following the scrapping of the Hotel Buildings Allowance and the introduction of an "unsatisfactory" new capital allowances regime
- Develop a more consistent approach to training, with tax incentives to encourage businesses to train their staff.
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