THE hospitality trade is urging States Members to throw out ministerial plans to increase alcohol duty.
The recently published Government Plan, which sets out firm public spending plans for next year and indicative spending for the following three, proposes increasing duty on beer, wine and spirits by 8.9% in 2024, which it stresses is below the current RPI of 10.9%.
But the Jersey Hospitality Association believes alcohol should be zero rated, saying that the proposed rise would add up to 50p on to a pint and ‘unfairly hit ordinary businesses and Islanders’.
Marcus Calvani, co-chief executive of the JHA, said: ‘Far from acknowledging that people are facing a cost-of-living crisis, the Council of Ministers is once again targeting the usual suspects and rattling the same old tins with its tired legacy thinking.
‘Rather than tackling the high rates of alcohol consumption, the excise increases will stop people drinking in the safe and controlled environment of hospitality venues, forcing them to shop in off-licences and duty free.
‘With more people buying from duty free, only the transport retail operators benefit and money that would circulate in the local economy will be lost.’
He added: ‘Reading the Government Plan is like looking through the government’s budget greatest hits – the hits taken by the public. Ideas that have sat at the back of the draw have been dusted off, and it’s time they wrote some new material.
‘Two years ago, a Scrutiny panel lead by Deputy Kristina Moore defeated the Council of Ministers by arguing for a lower increase in duty.
‘Now that she is Chief Minister, it is disappointing that she and her colleagues are turning their backs on hospitality.’
Mr Calvani praised the efforts of Economic Development Minister Kirsten Morel, but added that his efforts were being thwarted by political colleagues.
‘We have an industry champion in Deputy Morel who clearly not only listens to our businesses but acts with intention to stimulate and grow a balanced economy through multiple industries.
‘However, it seems that whatever he gives and whatever his priorities are, they are squashed and cast aside by a total lack of joined-up thinking and direction from his ministerial counterparts.
‘Bold decisions and change are needed for our Island, but it’s clear that few are willing to put their name behind what needs to be done.
‘The JHA can only conclude that Scrooge has come early this year and that he’s brought the fun police with him as the government is not serious when it claims it is helping hospitality businesses.’
Total duty, including on fuel and tobacco, is forecast to provide £73 million to the Treasury next year, which would be enough to fund the States police (£27m), Environment Department (£10m) and Economic Development Department (£35m) in 2024.
A Treasury spokesperson said that if alcohol duty was frozen at its current level instead of increasing by 8.9%, it would deny the Treasury £2.6m of revenue. If no duty was levied at all on alcohol next year, he added, it would cost £25.5m.