The chairman of JD Wetherspoon has ripped into Chancellor Philip Hammond, accusing him of delivering a “budget for dinner parties” rather than pub goers.
Tim Martin used a first-half trading statement to highlight nearly £30 million of extra charges Wetherspoon will have to pay as a result of tax hikes, and derided Mr Hammond for threatening the pub sector’s survival.
He said: “We understand the need for the Government to raise taxes.
“However, there should be a sensible rebalancing of the taxes paid by pubs and supermarkets, if the pub industry is to survive in the long term.”
Mr Martin totted up a business rates bill of £7 million, a £2 million Apprenticeship Levy charge and a £4 million hit from the sugar tax that will contribute to £29 million in extra charges the group will face over the next few years.
He also poured scorn on a £1,000 business rates discount for pubs with a rateable value of less than £100,000, saying “that sum is dwarfed by tax and regulatory increases” and that Wetherspoon is not eligible for it in any case.
The outspoken New Zealander pointed out the disparity between how pubs are taxed versus supermarkets when it comes to VAT on food sales and described Mr Hammond as having been “less-than-frank”.
“The Chancellor was less-than-frank in his budget speech, since he did not spell out the duty increases, giving the impression to many that there would be no increase.
“In effect, this was a budget for dinner parties, no doubt the preference of the Chancellor and his predecessor – dinner parties will suffer far less from the taxes outlined above, whereas many people prefer to go to pubs, given the choice,” he said.
Brexit-backing Mr Martin has tended to use trading updates to berate the EU and its leaders but, like the Chancellor, did not mention Britain’s impending exit from the bloc in any detail.
The pubs boss made the comments alongside half-year results, which saw pre-tax profits climb 43% to £51.4 million in the 26 weeks to January 22.
Like-for-like sales rose 3.3% while revenue nudged up 1.4% to £801.4 million.
Trading in the second half has got off to a mixed start, with like-for-like sales rising by 2.7% and total sales falling by 0.2% in the six weeks to March 5.