Urgent action is needed on business rates to avoid “irreversible damage” to Welsh pubs, an MP has warned.
The Labour Welsh Government has slashed business rates relief from 75 per cent to 40 per cent from April 2024 – a move which has left the hospitality industry reeling.
A typical local pub will be more than £6,500 worse off than pubs in England, where such cuts are not being made.
Monmouth MP David Davies said he had been contacted by pub owners across Monmouthshire who are “dismayed and frustrated” by the decision to axe support.
He is calling on the Labour Welsh Government to rethink and use money made available by the UK Government to keep the business rates discount at 75 per cent, as it is in England.
“This could be the final nail in the coffin for many of our rural pubs, which are grappling with rising costs and still bouncing back from the Covid pandemic,” said Mr Davies.
“Removing support for business rates bills is disastrous and immediately puts pubs at a competitive disadvantage to their counterparts in England, where Chancellor Jeremy Hunt extended the 75 per cent discount in his Autumn Statement last November.
“Pubs are the beating heart of our communities and play a vital role, helping to tackle rural isolation and loneliness and providing a safe space to enjoy a drink with friends and family.
“They deserve support to remain open and to keep thriving – not to be punished. The harsh reality is this could well result in more closures and more pubs being lost for good.”
Mr Davies also rejected claims the Welsh Government was not being given enough funding by Westminster, saying Labour was instead choosing to “waste millions” of public money on “vanity projects” such as creating extra Senedd politicians.
“What we have is a budget, published while the Senedd was in recess, which clearly highlights just how little the Labour Welsh Government cares about the pub sector,” he said.
"They have been given the money by Westminster to provide the same rate relief but have chosen to spend it elsewhere, a decision which proves how utterly out of touch they are with the situation in hospitality."
In the long-term, Mr Davies said the unfair and outdated business rates system needed to be overhauled. Reform, he added, would be the "biggest boost" to Welsh businesses.
Simon Key, owner of The Nag’s Head in Usk, said Welsh hospitality was being dealt a "hammer blow" with business rates rises – alongside the introduction of a planned tourism tax and other punishing regulation.
“It is totally unfair that the Welsh Government are not passing on the 75 per cent business rate cut that is being implemented in England,” said Mr Key.
“It will hit Welsh hospitality very hard with pubs and restaurants closing. They must think again and help hospitality in Wales.”
Debbie Zsigo, owner of The Lion Inn in Trellech, added: "I have sadly seen a good handful of local inns shut for good. This is not just sad for the publicans, but house values lower as amenities disappear and communities find it more difficult to be a cohesive unit with the local inns gone from the heart of their villages.
"We cannot allow this to continue."