Sales of some alcoholic drinks have started to increase, especially cider, but total volumes are still well below pre-recession levels, according to a new report today.

A study by the GMB union found sales of wine, cider and spirits in pubs, off-licences and stores were growing, but beer sales were declining.

Alcohol consumption increased by 4.2% in the nine months to June, but was still around 8% below pre-recession levels, according to the report.

Hayley Brennan of the GMB said: "These figures show the first signs of a recovery in alcohol volumes in the UK since the recession hit sales. They also show no let up in the decline in beer sales.

"I hold regular meetings with tied pub tenants across the country every week and they report that the overcharging for rents by pubcos is still killing the pub trade.

"Customers are simply refusing to pay the additional pound per drink to pay these inflated rents and are deserting pubs in droves.

"It is no exaggeration to say that the British pub is on life support and will not survive unless the poison of high rents and high prices injected by the pubcos is removed.

"Tenants are desperate and many fear that their pubs will not survive the rate of VAT increasing to 20% in January unless the OFT report due this month recommends action by Government to end the market abuse by pubcos."