Chancellor's cider tax leaves West Country 'smarting'
The arguments on the big economic numbers will rage on. But at The Crown in Devizes, they've done the sums already.
"It means about 10p on a pint of beer, and maybe as much as 15p on a pint of cider. Darling's not popular round here, no," says Paul Sullivan, Wadsworth's marketing man.
Paul's remarks are, perhaps, obvious. Brewers rarely love budgets, and Chancellors rarely cut tax on booze. But as I look around this thriving pub, Paul shows me how much more there is to brewing than beer.
"We employ 700 people directly in our own pubs, and then another two thousand indirectly through the pubs we manage."
Mr Sullivan's big worry is the supermarkets. Wadworth, and the other brewers, will have to pass on the tax hike at the bar. But supermarkets may decide not to, and make a big splash with a "Pre-Budget Special".
"Supermarkets are increasingly undercutting our sales," says Mr Sullivan, "driving drinkers into the home. And each pub is someone's business, someone's home, the hub of a village community. If we lose pubs, we lose so much more than just a profit-line."
The Crown is busy today. A group of pensioners out for lunch. A local business team on a training day. And the talk is all of the cider tax. "Cider has been undertaxed," The Chancellor said, so he increased the rate by 10%, worth about 15p a pint.
"It seems so unfair round here," one lady tells me. "There are so many small cider makers, that's what the West Country is all about."
The other measures will be picked over by the economists as the days wear on. But there is something immediate about taxing beer and cider. And deficit or not, the West Country is smarting just a little this afternoon.