Increasing the price of drinking each year “does nothing” for health and only serves to hit hardworking islanders’ pockets, a Deputy aiming to get the duty on alcohol frozen has said.
St. Helier’s Scott Wickenden has put forward an amendment to Budget 2019 in order to stop prise rises on alcohol.
Under current plans, the level of impôts duties charged on alcohol is set to rise by 3.5% in 2019.
This translates to an extra penny on each pint of beer or cider, a 5p increase on a bottle of wine and 50p on a litre of spirits.
Pictured: Bottles of spirits will cost an extra 50p next year under Treasury plans.
The tax, which usually rises each year in line with inflation, has traditionally been justified on the grounds that alcohol is “damaging to health, to wellbeing and to the environment” and that putting up the price will reduce consumption.
But Deputy Wickenden has blasted the assumption, claiming that there is “no evidence” to suggest this strategy has worked or done anything to realistically help those with longstanding problems with alcohol dependency.
“Those that have a problem with alcohol, drink to excessive or dangerous levels and are a cost to the Health Department, do not care about the price of alcohol. They are insensitive to the cost of alcohol. Alcohol abuse and drinking to dangerous levels is largely a sad hidden affliction. It carries on behind closed doors,” he wrote in a report outlining his plans.
He suggested that the Health Department is being used as an unacceptable “excuse to raise levels of duty on alcohol” and raise money for the Treasury without meaningful results for islanders’ health.
Pictured: How much Treasury would make from impôts on alcohol next year with and without a rise.
Next year, the Treasury hopes to raise over £6million from money earned from spirits, nearly £9million from wine, £732,000 from cider and around £6million from beer. Deputy Wickdenden’s proposition would see £743,000 knocked off that total.
The Deputy pointed to a report by the Corporate Services Scrutiny Panel on the matter, which he said demonstrated a “lack of statistical evidence showing the impact that rises in impôts duties have on consumption of alcohol” and that any evidence that had been used often relied on research conducted in jurisdictions that could not be meaningfully compared with Jersey.
He told Express that his proposition was put forward following “painstaking” research into the matter.
Deputy Wickenden said that he understood islanders were now “fed up” of being taxed in order to fill gaps in budgets and would rather see initiatives that invest in their wellbeing.
Pictured: Treasury Minister, Deputy Susie Pinel, has suggested a 3.5% rise in duty on alcohol.
“For the majority of people who drink alcohol, it is a pleasant adjunct to a wide range of recreational activities. The examples are extensive, ranging from the working man buying a pint at the pub after a day’s work, to a couple or family group enjoying a bottle of wine with a restaurant meal, an outdoor picnic or a domestic dinner.
“There are simply no serious grounds nor evidence for introducing a health-based policy that will hit these alcohol consumer groups financially,” he wrote in his report.
He explained that his proposals would also support tourism and the island’s flourishing nighttime economy.
Although his suggestion of a duty freeze may be welcomed by these groups, Deputy Wickenden said he was not sure that it would be as warmly received in the States Assembly. “I know that it won’t be popular,” he said, adding that this was not only for health reasons, but because his proposals would mean lost money for the Treasury.
He will be attempting the “hard sell” to his fellow politicians at the Budget 2019 Debate on 4 December.
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