THE survival of Burton’s annual beer festival is ‘at the mercy of the Government’, a campaigner has claimed after revealing that attendance figures had nearly halved during the past five years.
Nik Antona said around 3,000 people attended this year’s festival at Burton Town Hall between Thursday and Saturday last week — but entry numbers were closer to 5,000 as recently as five years ago, he added.
Mr Antona, a national director of the Campaign for Real Ale and spokesman for its Burton and South Derbyshire branch, said: “Burton’s beer festival is at the mercy of the Government.
“It’s still a hugely popular and very successful event, but we have seen a 40 per cent drop in attendance in just a few years and this is because of the Government’s tax policy.”
Mr Antona said the beer duty escalator — which pushes up tax by two per cent every year plus the rate of inflation — was making beer too expensive for many.
His comments came as Chancellor George Osborne was due to present his 2013 Budget to the House of Commons this afternoon. It is hoped by many that Mr Osborne will either freeze beer duty or reduce the rate by which it increases each year.
The beer festival, organised by the Campaign for Real Ale, is now in its 34th year and boasts a selection of more than 140 beers.
Mr Antona said: “Beer in general is not being drunk at the same rate it was. This has got to be to do with the rising price. Fewer people will drink it the more expensive it gets.”
Beer tax has risen by 42 per cent since the escalator’s introduction in 2008, which critics claim has put off drinkers and forced pubs out of business. It is claimed 5,000 jobs would be saved by its scrapping.