Lib Dem leader calls for bail out to support breweries on visit to Sunderland
The leader of the Liberal Democrats has called for the Government to ‘bail out the breweries’ on a visit to Sunderland ahead of the upcoming local elections.
Sir Ed Davey Lib Dem leader, visited Darwin Brewery and Brewlab, in Southwick, as the party launched its campaign calling for the Government to support local breweries.
The industry estimates that six million pints have been poured down the drain by smaller brewers since last year while larger companies have seen the benefits of supermarket sales.
Now the party is calling for the Government to compensate small breweries losing high levels of revenue up to 80% of their rent costs over the next six months.
It also urged for a brewers’ support fund to be established, in line with calls made by the Society of Independent Brewers (Siba) and similar to that introduced in Scotland.
"These small businesses are so crucial to local communities and the local economy, they can provide lots of jobs as well as those local community services that people need,” said Sir Ed during his visit to Sunderland.
"It’s been really impressive to hear what they are doing here and it’s made me even more determined in this Liberal Democrat idea of bailing out the breweries.”
He added: "Our proposal is a rent relief scheme because lots of these breweries have not been able to trade as they would normally do. We’ve got a scheme that has actually worked in Germany and that we’ve talked to the Federation of Small Business about and it would really help.
“We’re also concerned about some of the tax changes that will hit smaller breweries in the future that are getting pushed by the Government. We think they are completely inappropriate if we are going to get the recovery we need in the brewing industry.
"Our package is comprehensive to make sure we do bail out the breweries. The Conservatives bailed out the banks, I think it’s time we bail out the breweries.”
It comes as the Southwick-based micro-brewery prepares for the reopening of beer gardens and outdoor restaurants next month.
Darwin Brewery’s brewing and development manager, Gav Sutherland, told the Echo: “It’s been a really difficult time for the industry. We’ve been lucky here that we were able to bottle a lot of our own product on site – but for other breweries of a similar size or even bigger than us they haven’t had those facilities.
"I know brewers who have lost 80% of their trade and are now in a financially unsound position having been in a really strong position pre-pandemic.
“It’s been a really tough time for the industry all around and we’re looking forward to getting some beer out in casks."
Sir Ed visited the city on Wednesday, March 31, ahead of the local elections, which will take place across the country in May, and is confident the party will gain seats in Sunderland.
"We’ve been building strength on strength and I’m very confident that we will get more seats here,” he said.
"What I say to people in Sunderland is that if you want a challenge to this Labour council, it’s the Liberal Democrats locally who can provide it.”