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Monday, 22 December 2014

Cumbrian pubs help Wetherspoon chain record sales rise

Pubs in Workington, Carlisle and Whitehaven contributed to a recession-busting rise in sales for drinks giant JD Wetherspoon.

The firm said sales at its 850 pubs rose two per cent in the 13 weeks to April 22, despite Britain slumping into a double-dip recession in the same period.

But the company fired an angry broadside at the Government saying its total tax bill would top £500m this year, which was acting as a brake on growth.

As a result, bosses say they will cut the number of new pubs the company plans to open from 40 to between 20 and 30 in the next 12 months.

JD Wetherspoon runs Cumbrian boozers including the Woodrow Wilson in Carlisle, Workington’s Henry Bessemer and the Bransty Arch, Whitehaven.

“We have created approximately 3,000 jobs in the same period, but all of the economic benefits of our expansion are currently being levied by the Government as taxes – an unsustainable situation,” the company said in a statement.

Its tax bill includes recent increases in excise duty, business rates and carbon tax.

The chain is particularly unhappy that pubs have to pay 20 per cent VAT on food sales while supermarkets pay “virtually nothing”.

It added in a trading update: “The overall level of taxes and the disparity with supermarkets have greater economic effect in less affluent parts of the UK.

“The result is that the majority of prominent pub and catering companies are investing in the southern part of the UK and in major town and city centres elsewhere, contributing to serious economic problems for many high streets in Britain and Northern Ireland.”

Continuing cost pressures resulted in a deterioration in its operating margin but this should improve in the current quarter.

It added: “We continue to be slightly more cautious about the potential outcome for the current financial year.”

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