A SOUTH Essex pub boss has slammed yesterday’s Autumn Statement alcohol duty freeze insisting “it doesn’t really change anything for pubs.”

Steve Haslam, whose company TLC Inns own pubs such as The Bread and Cheese in Benfleet and restaurant, Urban Fresh, in Ramsden Heath has said that the alcohol duty rise “doesn’t alleviate the increases from prior years.”

The Autumn Statement, delivered by Chancellor Jeremy Hunt yesterday announced a freeze to alcohol duty from April and a £4.3 billion business rates support package to help high streets.

Mr Haslam said: “Of course we welcome it, but we think duty is too high in the first place, so nothing changes, it could have gone up, but it hasn’t, and it doesn’t alleviate the increases from earlier years or the increase earlier this year, it went up in strength this year.

“For pubs there is no real change but for consumers, in terms of not having to put prices up, that is a change, the biggest win for us is on business rates, which in real terms support pubs because business rates are an unfair tax and add to tax burdens.

“It’s been a rough ride and the tax burden for our industry is absolutely ridiculous compared to other industries, so that business rates relief was a big win, as well as the two-point national insurance reduction,” Mr Haslam said.

Mr Haslam added that “if they are serious, they have to make permanent business rates changes and start reducing alcohol taxes again.”