I’ve had a couple of whirlwind-busy days with meetings, a full email inbox and different important projects flying around at work, hence I’ve been a bit quiet. While I was dipping in and out of twitter today I kept seeing people talking about their budget. During a long evening meeting I scribbled down some numbers to try and work out mine. Here it is:
Around half my wages goes into the joint account for rent, bills and food. I try to save a few hundred but in reality this just gets eaten up on paying off the credit card, overdraft or the holiday to Greece that’s booked for July. There’s some set aside for phone bill, internet and the monthly payments for the laser eye surgery I had two years ago. Then I allow myself about £100 a week for spending. Anything left after this just goes to make my student overdraft (it’s interest free so of course I still use it – free money!) less harrowing.
The important bit here is the £400 a month for spending. This is effectively my beer money. It used to pay for clothes and important things like that but now it just gets poured into a pint glass and swallowed. This is quite a lot of money considering I keep my drinking to two or three days a week but in this I have to factor train tickets, magazines and diet Coke for Lauren, snacks and meals, erratic drunk purchases, etc. I also have a list of places to visit, festivals to go to and events in the next few months, all of which need paying for. Plus online orders (maybe one every other month) and it soon adds up. I often wonder what I’d spend the money on if I didn’t like beer and I have fantastical daydreams about my lavish lifestyle, but then I realise that I’m putting my money into the best craft industry there is, enjoying unique and delicious products, loving hand crafted to give pleasure to others, best consumed with friends. I wouldn’t want it any other way.
But the industry has been socked in the stomach again with another tax rise and the promise of it increasing 2% above inflation for the next few years (that's a 5% rise overall). From Sunday that supposedly puts 2p on your pint. In reality it’ll be more like 10p – how many places currently charging £3 a pint will up their prices to £3.02? It’ll be £3.10 (see the end of this press release). The scary figure in all of this is that beer duty has increased 25% since 2008. That’s insane.
The taxes come to help curb binge drinking, apparently, but what they do in the real world is push people out of businesses and jobs. The community pub, already under great threat, will now have an even harder job. Breweries will be put under more financial pressure. The social drinker will be hit in the pocket. If this move is intended to push up the prices of cheap supermarket lager then why not just gun straight for those 24-cans-for-£8 deals and ban them or start using a minimum unit price. The sad fact is that a lager drinker who likes to go to the pub for a few jars will see a bigger rise in the cost of his pint and might even be turned towards buying that cheap multipack instead of going out to drink it, so it’s utterly counter-productive. And real ale and cider drinkers and makers are just being blindly shafted.
The big breweries who can afford to sell their beer that cheap will not feel the impact as much as a small micro-brewery. The big breweries will always have an outlet for their beer but the micros rely on local pubs to stock their beer. Fewer pubs, fewer drinkers and more competition for handpumps isn’t a good equation.
Binge drinking can’t be solved by throwing taxes at it. Binge drinking can only be solved through education. With a government only interested in tangible, year-on-year figures, this is completely reductive and ignoring the real problems in the dark side of our drinking culture. A quick fix this ain’t; a tick in a box it is. Britain is still broken.
I’m happy to pay good money for good beer and I want my money to go back into the breweries and pubs that make and sell it. I don’t want a large wad of it going into a government that is unfairly branding all beer as the same and all beer as bad. A lot has been done in this budget to help out small businesses but it seems the craft beer and cider makers have just been ignored. It’s so frustrating to see something you love suffer because it’s at the control of someone else who just doesn’t care.
There is a facebook group to fight back against the ridiculous rise in cider taxes. I haven't joined it because most of the people in that group are sad that their ‘Bows might get more expensive, but over 11,000 have signed up already. The artisan market could really suffer from this unless, as promised, the increase is specifically targeted towards certain brands. Perhaps more effective is this petition. It will be interesting to see if social media will be able to impact upon politics, although I doubt it will in this case.
I don’t really understand politics or money, but I do understand people and this is going to affect a lot of people.
And I got the picture from Arfur, here.