Wetherspoons boss slams Philip Hammond for delivering a 'dinner parties' Budget while UK pubs struggle

The vocal Brexit campaigner this time steered clear from commentary on the EU, taking a swing at this week’s Budget instead

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The Independent Online

JD Wetherspoon chairman Tim Martin has used yet another financial report to make a political statement.

The vocal Brexit campaigner this time steered clear from commentary on the EU, taking a swing at this week’s Budget instead.

Mr Martin slammed Chancellor Philip Hammond claiming that his speech on Wednesday was a “budget for dinner parties” and did nothing for the struggling pub industry.

“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,” Mr Martin said.

“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 added.

During his Spring Budget, the Chancellor announced three measures to alleviate the burden of business rates, including a discount for pubs with a rateable value of less than £100,000.

However, in his company’s first-half trading statement Mr Martin said the “sum is dwarfed by tax and regulatory increases” and that Wetherspoon is not eligible for it in any case.

“Companies like Wetherspoon’s, on examination of the fine print of the budget, are not, in fact, eligible for the £1,000 per annum decrease in business rates, in any event,” Mr Martin said.

He added that Wetherspoon’s business rates costs will increase by £7m in the next year.

The pub owner said he understood the need to raise taxes, but added 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 said pubs paid 20 per cent VAT on food sales while supermarkets paid “almost nothing”, enabling them to subsidise alcoholic drink prices.

His latest comments came as the 900-strong chain announced its annual results, which saw pre-tax profits climb 43 per cent to £51.4m in the 26 weeks to 22 January.

Like-for-like sales rose 3.3 per cent while revenue nudged up 1.4 per cent to £801.4m.

Trading in the second half has got off to a mixed start, with like-for-like sales rising by 2.7 per cent and total sales falling by 0.2 per cent in the six weeks to 5 March.