Local MP tries to protect small brewers

Small breweries in Sheffield, who have already been hugely impacted by the pandemic, are now facing another blow as the government proposes cuts to a subsidy known as Small Brewers Relief (SBR). Hallam MP Olivia Blake is working with local brewers and campaigners to reverse these proposed cuts.

SBR was introduced in 2002 to enable small brewers to exist in a market dominated by multinationals. It is widely credited for being the reason why such a diverse and exciting craft beer industry has flourished in the UK over the past two decades.

Within Sheffield’s City boundary, there are currently 27 functioning brewing companies, more per head of population than any other UK city. These vary from long-established breweries like Abbeydale, Bradfield and Kelham Island, to newer breweries, like Little Mesters, Lost Industry and Loxley.

Hallam MP Olivia Blake has tabled a parliamentary motion calling on the government to reverse these proposed cuts.

Olivia Blake MP said:

“Covid-19 is having a huge impact on small breweries in Sheffield and across the country. Right now sales have fallen by 80% and two small breweries are going out of business every week.

But at this critical time, when small breweries so desperately need more support, the government is proposing the opposite – cuts, which will threaten the whole industry.

I have tabled a Parliamentary Motion, to call on the government to rethink this damaging plan, and am working with breweries in my constituency as well as national campaign groups to hold the government to account over this.”

A spokesperson for Loxley Brewery, established in 2018, said:

“Small Brewers’ Relief has been a lifeline to independent breweries, such as Loxley Brewery.

Without the scheme, breweries such as ours would not have been able to grow by reinvesting the duty relief back into the business, purchasing new equipment to increase our capacity, create jobs and boost the local economy.

With the effects of the coronavirus pandemic on the hospitality industry, the proposed change to SBR could not have come at a worse time for the industry, especially after pubs – a lifeline especially for predominantly cask and keg producing breweries – have been closed for months on end and brewers are struggling to make ends meet.

As a predominantly cask producing brewery with ambitions to grow, penalising brewers by reducing the annual threshold to 2100HL will only result in many closing their shutter doors for one last time as they face mounting bills on top of decreasing sales; all this on top of successive lockdowns on the hospitality industry is nothing short of a slap in the face for a nation that has culturally, economically and historically been the centre of brewing for many centuries.

We, at Loxley Brewery, do not support the changes to SBR, which will only really benefit larger breweries who have higher lobbying power than those trying to craft a future for beer in a local setting and create a meaningful experience for our residents and expand our footprint further afield.

We implore the treasury to rethink the matter during their technical consultation.”

Dave Pickersgill, Pubs Officer at Sheffield and District CAMRA, said:

‘CAMRA do not believe that the proposed changes, resulting in around 150 small brewers paying more tax, are the best route to improve Small Brewers’ Relief. The Government should be providing more support to our vibrant small brewing sector to aid its recovery, rather than planning on withdrawing tax relief from some of the smallest operators, brewers who are vital to maintaining consumer choice in the beer market. We fully support the Early Day Motion, as proposed by Olivia.”

News, Opinion

About Dave Pickersgill

Dave has been a CAMRA member since the 1970s and has worked at almost 40 Sheffield CAMRA festivals, plus a fair number of others. He is Brewery Liaison Officer (BLO) for Abbeydale, Blue Bee, Bradfield and Loxley. A member of the National Pub Heritage Group, he leads on planning and pub heritage issues. He also edited the Sheffield's Real Heritage Pubs book, for which downloads vastly exceeded expectations. The hard copy was available in October 2018 and was a sell-out. The third edition is available as a free download. Alongside Paul Crofts, Dave was co-local organiser for the 2021 National CAMRA Members’ Weekend, AGM & Conference which was planned to be held at Sheffield City Hall on 16-18 April - now cancelled. We hope to see you at a future Members' Weekend in Sheffield.

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