Budget 2021: our response

March 2021 | 6 minutes

In the Budget announced on 3 March 2021, the Chancellor chose to freeze duty on all alcohol, missing a key opportunity to address a worsening crisis.

Lucy Holmes, Director of Research and Policy Development at Alcohol Change UK, said:

"In today’s Budget the Chancellor chose to freeze duty on all alcohol. The government has missed a key opportunity to support the UK’s recovery from the pandemic by reducing both a significant burden on public services, and the unacceptable, avoidable harm caused by alcohol.

"The government claims this real-terms cut in alcohol duty is aimed at helping the hospitality industry, but it’s the big supermarkets and huge multinational alcohol producers who stand to benefit. The alcohol industry’s products create harm, so it is quite right that they pay for its costs to the UK.

"Alcohol harm is estimated to cost between £27 billion and £52 billion each year - more than twice the amount raised in duty. The cost of this year's freeze will be £315 million, meaning the cost of duty freezes since 2013 has now topped £6.5bn.

"But this is about much more than money. Last month the Office of National Statistics reported that in the first nine months of 2020, deaths as a result of alcohol were the highest since data collection began in 2001. And the harm caused by alcohol goes beyond this totally avoidable loss of life – the harm ripples out, affecting children, families and communities.

"The pandemic has worsened an existing crisis. The government could have started to tackle this today by raising alcohol duty, but chose not to.

"Despite not seeing a duty increase at this Budget we look forward to the government’s review of the alcohol duty system. We need government to prioritise this work urgently, so that we can work together to create a fair, rational system that protects the people of the UK above the profits of the alcohol industry."

The long-awaited review of alcohol duty is a major opportunity to change the outdated and illogical way we currently tax different types of alcohol to create a fairer system. Tax should be proportionate to the social harms from alcohol, scaled so that stronger drinks are taxed more per unit, consistent in that different product types are treated the same, and uprated so that duty is tied to inflation or wages. Find out more.

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

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