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Shepherd Neame boss says Britain's tourism sector is the 'most taxed' in the world and says business rate changes 'penalise investment'

By Chris Price

The chief executive of beer maker Shepherd Neame described Britain’s tourism and hospitality sector as the most taxed in the world after a string of measures upping costs on his business.

Jonathan Neame said a combination of food-price inflation, new business rates and rising beer duty are putting “cost pressure” on the leisure industry.

He particularly criticised the revaluation of business rates which came into force in April, saying it “penalises investment”.

Shepherd Neame chief executive Jonathan Neame
Shepherd Neame chief executive Jonathan Neame

His comments came as his Faversham-based company, founded in 1698, announced an 8% increase in underlying pre-tax profits to £11.2 million in its annual results.

Mr Neame said: “The British tourism and hospitality sector is the best in the world but it is also the most taxed.

“If we want to sustain world-class industries, governments need to think differently about how they tax them.

“There is food inflation across the piece. There has been a 7% increase in our input costs. That is a pressure on the business.

"The change in business rates seems unfair because it penalises investment..." - Jonathan Neame, Shepherd Neame

“Other pressures are to do with the level of taxation on the sector. The change in business rates seems unfair because it penalises investment.

“There are cost pressures on the sector, there’s no doubt about that.”

Shepherd Neame – whose beers include Spitfire, MasterBrew and Whitstable Bay – boosted revenues by 12% to £156.2 million in the year to June 24.

This was helped by a long hot summer last year and a warm spring. Growth is expected to be slightly slower this summer after a rainy August.

Mr Neame said the company, which rewarded shareholders with a 3% dividend boost to 28.35p, had also benefited from investing £10.7 million in renovating its pubs.

The new Shepherd Neame branding painted on its Faversham brewery
The new Shepherd Neame branding painted on its Faversham brewery

He said: “Any business has got to be in good enough shape to take advantage of conditions when they are favourable.

“We have been really transforming the business over the last five years with a lot of investment in our pubs, selling the less good ones and transforming the good ones.

“We have created a string of really wonderful pubs and they have performed very well.

“However, Kent in general is having a regeneration for the visitor economy, which is to do with HS1 and the 10-year benefits of that.

“Kent is seen as a good place for a visit or a short weekend break and if visitors do that then, God willing, they will be going into one of our outlets during that time.”

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