British fish and chip shop crisis as owners plead for VAT cut

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The VAT rate for the hospitality industry was slashed during the pandemic to 5 percent but is now back at 20 percent. This comes as owners face major increases in their energy bills and the price of fish.

James Backhouse of Berties Fish and Chips in New Milton on the edge of the New Forest, said: “I’ve done this since I was 13 years old and I’m 45 now. I’ve never, ever seen anything like this.”

He warned that across the country shops are “closing down left, right and centre where they just can’t make it pay anymore.”

Mr Backhouse said energy bills are now such a problem he is considering installing his own generator. His gas bill is due to go up from £750 a month to £2,000-plus.

Andrew Crook, president of the National Federation of Fish Friers pressed for an “immediate reduction in VAT to 10 percent” or a return to the pandemic level of five percent.

Mr Crook, who runs Skippers Fish and Chips in the village of Euxton near Chorley, said the cost of an 18kg case of cod had jumped from £140 during the pandemic to up to £230.

He said: “We’re not asking for a hand-out. We want the system sorted out so we have got a level playing field so that we can do what we do best, which is be entrepreneurial, provide good jobs and provide people with great food.”

Mr Crook said owners were trying to absorb costs instead of raising prices for customers but the average cost of a portion of cod and chips was now around £10.

Support for a VAT cut has come from Liz Saville Roberts, who represents the North Wales seat of Dwyfor Meirionnydd. She warned that local fish and chip shop owners are worried they may be forced out of business.

She said: “Fish and chip shops everywhere are facing a grim winter between inflation on foodstuffs and the soaring price of electricity. A VAT cut for hospitality would reduce menu prices, encourage more people to eat out and tide the chippies over to next year.”

Business minister Graham Stuart said: “The Government regularly engages with small businesses across the retail and hospitality sectors to understand the challenges they face.

“The recently announced Energy Bill Relief Scheme ensures that all businesses and other non-domestic customers are protected from excessively high energy bills over the winter period.”

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