We can’t afford another duty freeze in this autumn’s Budget

Lucy Holmes | October 2021 | 6 minutes

The next Budget will be held on 27 October, along with the 2021 Spending Review. Both present an opportunity for the Chancellor to reduce alcohol harm and improve support available to people who are dependent on alcohol.

We are calling on the Chancellor to increase alcohol duty by 2% above inflation in this Budget.

While we await the outcome of the ongoing review of alcohol duty (to which we have already submitted evidencei), it is vital the Chancellor reverses years of real terms cuts to alcohol duty, which have lost £6.8bn in revenue since 2012, over a period when deaths rose dramatically.

A freeze on alcohol duty is, in effect, a real terms cut. Freezing or cutting duty in this Budget would:

  • make things worse for the hospitality trade by further increasing the price gap with supermarkets
  • make cheap booze even more affordable, causing greater harm – when deaths caused by alcohol rose by 20% in 2020
  • further encourage ‘pre-loading’, harming the hospitality sector, making the night-time economy less safe, and increasing the burden of anti-social behaviour on the police and local communities
  • hurt the public purse by further decreasing revenue receipts

Increasing alcohol duty would maintain or increase revenue and:

  • rebalance the burden of paying the £27bn+ cost of alcohol harm, away from taxpayers (around one-fifth of whom do not drink), to manufacturers, retailers, and drinkers
  • raise vital funds for the criminal justice system and the NHS, who currently shoulder the main burden of alcohol harm
  • help reduce alcohol harm, reversing the trend of rising deaths and health disparities

The public welcome increasing alcohol duty: 40% want an increase compared to just 14% who want a cut. 56% support an increase if the revenue is used to fund the NHS and police.

It’s time for everybody to play their part in the national recovery and rebuilding. We need the businesses who have seen increased profits throughout the pandemic (like large alcohol producers and supermarkets) to help bear the cost of alcohol harm.

It’s time for everybody to play their part in the national recovery and rebuilding. We need the businesses who have seen increased profits throughout the pandemic (like large alcohol producers and supermarkets) to help bear the cost of alcohol harm.

As well as publishing the autumn Budget, this month the Chancellor will conclude the 2021 Spending Review; setting the budgets for government departments from 2022-23 to 2024-25, plus the devolved administrations’ block grants.

In a joint submission with our partners (Collective Voice, NHS Addiction Providers Alliance, Alcohol Health Alliance and Adfam), we are calling on the government to use the Spending Review to:

  1. fully fund Dame Carol Black’s long-term vision of rebuilding this country’s treatment and recovery system, projected to save many thousands of lives and many billions of pounds of public moneyii
  2. ensure any financial settlement is a multi-year commitment to provide frontline services with the security they need to plan effectively for the future
  3. restore the Public Health Grant (which Local Authorities use to pay for alcohol treatment services) to its 2015/16 leveliii

It doesn't end here. Support our continuing work to improve the duty system and reduce serious alcohol harm.

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