"Gordon Brown has pushed local community pubs to the wall", Shapps said, pointing out that at the same time Labour has ignored "the binge-drinking dens that have wrecked our town centres and fuelled violent crime".But are his revelations new?
The BBPA issued a response to plans to levy new charges on pubs with 'skills with prizes' (SWP) machines, which HMRC want to reclassify as gambling machines, in the middle of February. Read it here.
The other two parts of the triple-whammy relate to the Business Rates Review, which is due to take effect this year, and are based on an omission in the guidance manual for Valuation Office officials which, the Tories claim, will compel them to assess popularity or friendliness and factor this into the rateable value. An unfavourable assessment would see sharp increases in rates, leading to further pub closures.
Despite the claim that this has been brought to light by Tory research, a quick Google search revealed a similar story reported in the London Evening Standard's website in October 2007. At that time, Eric Pickles was wheeled out to put the Tories' case. Of course, at that time we weren't all living in shit-strewn 'Binge-drinking Britain', so the argument was that landlords would stop these activities rather than have to face a tax on them. Now, though, with Shapps laying the blame for binge-drinking and drink-fuelled voilent crime at Gordon Brown's door, it seems pubs are now making their entrance into the pre-election squabbling.
I wonder if Shapps is out front on this because he shadows John Healey. I'll be watching the wires tomorrow for a rebuttal from our Minister For Pubs...