Budget 2021: Reforms on alcohol taxes not enough for the North East's health say campaigners

Rishi Sunak today set out plans for the country's post-pandemic economic recovery in his Autumn Budget speech - including a major reform to alcohol taxes.

The overhaul of the Alcohol Duty system will bring down the price of drinks like prosecco and beer.

The changes announced have been considered by some campaigners as not enough for the North East's health.

A North East organisation that works on programmes to reduce the harm, death and disease caused by smoking and alcohol have responded to the comments made today.

  • Sue Taylor.

Sue Taylor, Head of Alcohol Policy with Fresh and Balance, said: “On alcohol, while we welcome the commitment to increase taxes on the cheapest, strongest products – something that Balance has consistently called for – the Chancellor’s statements around alcohol simply do not go far enough. 

“Duty freezes and cuts on alcohol since 2012 have cost the public purse around £1.3 billion every year – a sum which could have paid for 41,000 nurses - and we are astonished that the Government has announced a new £3bn give away to the alcohol industry at a time when the country’s finances are reeling."

She added: "Action around pricing needs to be part of a much a broader, evidence based national approach to tackling alcohol harms.”

Alcohol is the leading cause for death, ill-health and disability amongst 15-49-year-olds in England.

2020 saw a record year for alcohol-specific deaths.

Mr Sunak said the Alcohol Duty, first introduced in 1643 to help pay for the civil war, was "outdated, complex and full of historical anomalies" and announced plans to "radically" simplify it."

The new system will be designed around a common sense principle - the stronger the drink, the higher the rate," said Mr Sunak.

He announced the government will slash the number of main duty rates from 15 to six and will cut the “irrational” 28% duty premium on sparkling wines and duty on fruit ciders.

The planned increase in duty on spirits, wine, cider and beer will also be cancelled - a tax cut worth £3 billion.

A draught relief will apply a lower rate of duty on draught beer and cider, cutting the tax by 5% on drinks served from draught containers over 40 litres - bringing the price of a pint down by 3p.