New £50 note enters circulation – will it be the last one?

New £50 note enters circulation – will it be the last one?

The Bank of England’s new polymer £50 note has entered circulation, marking the 109th anniversary of the birth of it subject – pioneering computer scientist Alan Turing.

Despite there currently being 357 million £50 notes in circulation, the new launch comes as the use of high-denomination notes, and cash itself, suffer a significant decline.

The Guardian reported – with consumers increasingly going cashless, for million of people it may be months or even years before they see or touch one. Even before the pandemic, many people only rarely encountered a £50 note, and the coronavirus crisis has triggered a slump in the use of cash which could end up being permanent.

The release of the new £50 note marks the completion of the UK’s switch to polymer notes, as well as the first open depiction of a LGBTQ+ figure on a banknote.

During his lifetime, Turing created the breakthrough machine that helped win the Second World War, but was persecuted by the government for his homosexuality, and chemically castrated, before taking his own life in 1954.

But, with a £50 note the going rate for two testicles and winning WW2, what price then the future of cash in the UK?

At Comrie we are regularly seeing a shortage of £1 coins in machines and landlords telling us that lots of their customers are not carrying cash to play the machines. The only way to play a fruit machine in a pub or social club in the UK is by inserting cash, which needs to change to keep up with modern society.

 

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Outrageous Taxes on Pubs and Clubs

Weatherspoon, its customers, and employees have paid £6.1 billion of tax to the government in the last 10 years!

In Wetherspoon’s 2019 financial year, before COVID 19, it generates £764.4 million in tax – about £1 in every £1000 of all UK government taxes. The average tax generated per pub in 2019 was £871,000.

In the financial year ended July 2020, when pubs were closed for a long period, and the company made a substantial loss, £436.7 million of taxes were generated, net of furlough payments.

Of the company’s financial years 2011-20 the taxes amounted to about 42% of every £1 which went “over the bar” net of VAT – about 11 times the company’s profit.

Ben Whitely, Weatherspoon’s Finance Direct said “pub companies pay enormous amounts of tax, but that is not always well understood by the companies themselves since most taxes are hidden in a financial fog.

This data highlights the amount of tax which the company , its customers and employees have generated, highlighting the importance if the hospitality sector to the nation’s finances.

Weatherspoon understand the need for taxes, yet, like the hospitality industry generally, believes that there should be tax equality among supermarkets, pubs, restaurants and similar businesses.

Until recently, supermarkets have paid zero VAT on food sales, whereas pubs, restaurants, and hotels, for example, have paid 20%.

The chancellor, Rishi Sunak, announced a temporary reduction last summer to 5% VAT for pub and restaurant food sales, but the government intends to revert to 20% this year.

Pubs also pay about 20p a pint in business rates, whereas supermarkets pay only about 2p.

It does seem wrong that dinner parties in Chelsea, for example, pay zero VAT for food bought from supermarkets, when pub customers normally pay 20% VAT for fish and chips.

Weatherspoon’s, concluded “Equality and fairness are important principles of efficient tax regimes, and we urge the government to introduce equality in this area – sensible tax policies will increase investment and government revenues.”

While I am not a massive Weatherspoon’s pub fan, preferring a independent local pub whenever going for a pint. they really are making a good piont of not only the amount of taxes a pub contributes to the governments coffers. Also the unlevel playing field with supermarkets, in comparison to the duty levels. Add to the fact many of the supermarkets got business rates relief during Covid while they were trading their socks off! A few did repay this money but others pocketed the money along with massive profits!!!

Comrie have heard complaints along the lines above from the many pubs and social clubs we hire our fruit machines to and have to agree this needs to be addressed.

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Fruit Machines for Pubs and Clubs in Birmingham and Leicester

There has been a lot of calls from pubs and social clubs in and around Birmingham and Leicester areas looking to up date/refresh their fruit machines after the long and hard enforced Covid shut down.

Now is a great time to update machines and hopefully benefit from the pent up demand of customers looking to go back to their local pubs and clubs, meeting friends and playing fruit machines, pool tables and jukeboxes.

Another question we are being asked is what jackpot prize machines can we have at our premises?

If the machine is for a public house this is classed as Category C Fruit Machine with a maximum jackpot of £100 and maximum stake of up to £1 per play.

For social clubs, this is a Category B4 machine which is a maximum jackpot of £400 and a maximum stake of £2 per play.

There is also a B3A machine which is only allowed to be located in committee ran social clubs where the profits are put back into the club for the members. The Jackpot on a B3A machine is £500.

If you would like more information about hiring a fruit machine for your pub or social club free of charge, please give Comrie a call on 02476 249070.

 

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“No Surprise” hospitality venues are not Covid hotspots.

“No Surprise” hospitality venues are not Covid hotspots.

UK Hospitality has responded to data presented to the health experts that hospitality is not a major Covid transmission risk as “no surprise”, hailing the lengths venues have gone to to protect staff and customers.

The findings were presented to the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee by regional public health directors on 27th January and conclude that household interactions are the main source of transmission.

“Hospitality doesn’t crop up as a terribly big risk on our trader”, Sheffield’s public health director Greg Fell told MP’s. “Certainly, when we look at the common exposure dataset, hospitality certainly isn’t a huge risk”.

The findings follow significant investment from hospitality venues to ensure their premises adhere to the latest transmission prevention measures, while battling the unfounded assumption from government that they pose a high risk.

“Hospitality venue are not the hotbeds of infection many people have arbitrarily chosen to portray”, said UK Hospitality CEO Kate Nicholls “This should come as no surprise when you consider the huge investments made by the sector to make venues Covid-secure”.

The witnesses to the select committee are by no means the first to provide scientific evidence to support our case – there has been an absence of any convincing body of evidence to uphold claims of high transmission in hospitality.

The above is no surprise, hospitality has been made the scape goat through this whole pandemic. After the first lock down, hospitality proved that pubs, bars and restaurants can be open and operate safely. But yet again the government closed them all down and kept them closed while all other retail could trade. They talked a good game about grants and helping hands but the real help fell well short and has left many hospitality businesses struggling!

Also all businesses that feed off pubs and clubs were also hit going right up the supply chain. We at comrie have been hit like many businesses and unfortunately have had to let a couple of staff go due to some of our pubs close down. luckily comrie has been supplying fruit machines to pubs and clubs for over 50 years and has a diverse group of customers whom many of have come out the other end of this hard time. Lets have a pint at our local pub or social club and celebrate these fantastic british institutes :)

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Surprise! Surprise! Bookies Get The Nod….

Surprise! Surprise! Licensed Betting Office   ……. Getting preferential treatment?

The not unexpected news to allow high street Licensed Betting Office (LBOs) to trade from April and to kick the interests of the Adult Gaming Centre (AGC) sector down the road – again! Left me with a mix of anger and resignation. Anger because no one in The Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) seems to have listened to or noticed what we have done as a sector and resignation because that’s the way it is.

For the benefit of our friends at DCMS let’s take the opportunity to set out the facts. LBO’s like AGCs operate on the high street. Both have small footfalls, neither sell alcohol, they share some customers and provide similar gaming machines with the same number of hard surfaces.

LBOs and AGCs have implemented strict cleaning protocols, under pinned by social distancing clear signage.

Unlike LBOs where staff are often seated behind AGC staff walk the floor, direct customers, police the regulations and clean machines thoroughly before and after each customer has played them. Can anyone anywhere provide a plausible reason why LBOs should be open when AGCs, their neighbours on the high street, remain closed?

My industry has gone way beyond what any other retail sector has done!

Hairdressers and nail bars which involve touching customers – will be open before us which simply does not stack-up.

Is it too much to get a proper grown-up explanation from DCMS to explain why? (The above is from John White BACTA chief executive)

We at Comrie think it is disgraceful to allow one part of the industry to open up a month before all other parts. Amusement arcades, bowling alleys, bingo halls and many other industry’s have been made to wait. We will all miss out on the pent up trading that will follow and another month of losses which is taking its toll on so many businesses!

This stinks of who has the most lobbing power with the government, which in turn means who throws the most money at it…..Bookmakers and on-line gambling have had it there way for far too long. We only have to look how they milked FOBT’s and did not care one bit about the harm they were doing with the high limits. On-line betting and gambling needs a complete overhaul as you can literally lose your home in one evening. Is this protecting and value the interests of the UK public???

Here at Comrie and other fruit machine suppliers, we will all be waiting with bated breath to see how many of our pub and social club customers come out the other end of this enforce longer than needed lock down.

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Is the end of the free to use ATM’s in sight?

Is the end of the free to use ATM’s in sight?

The latest analysis by the consumer champion shows a spike in the number of people forced to pay withdraw their own money from cash machines with experts warning that half of Britain’s ATM’s could close within two years.

According to Which? the findings highlight the need for urgent clarity and direction from the government on the role of cash in the future including specific details about how it will ensure that cash continues to be a viable payment method for those that need it.

Since 2018, two Birmingham constituencies have seen 44 and 41 percent reductions in free to use ATMs, but both had a 50 percent increase in pay to use machines.

Nottingham East has seen 43 percent of free cash machines closed but an 11 percent increase in pay to use machines. All three locations are within the top 10 percent for deprivation in England.

The results are particularly concerning as previous research has shown that those in more deprived areas are more likely to use cash. ATM’s are the most commonly used means of withdrawing cash, with UK Finance figures showing that 91 percent of cash withdrawals took place through ATM’s in 2019.

So what does the future hold for our ATM’s? As we have mentioned a few times on this blog, cash is disappearing fast. We are heading to a cashless society, which has many positives! but there are many people who rely on cash and this is usually the old and poorer sections of our community’s. It is sad to see so many banks removing there free to use cash points and seeing them replaced by private pay to use cash points hitting the most needy.

Fruit machines in pubs are not legally allowed to accept card payments to play them, even though the technology is there and ready to go.  Our industry is pushing hard for this as we are one of the few industry’s that card payments are not accepted. Watch this space for when this regulation changes and another step towards our cashless society happens!

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BUDGET UPDATE ON THE 3RD MARCH 2021

BUDGET UPDATE ON THE 3RD MARCH 2021

After a difficult 12 months, please see below the summary of the announcements made in todays budget.

We are pleased to see the extension of the CJRS and the rates relief and grants for retail leisure and hospitality albeit that they will not be as generous as previously.

We are however deeply frustrated that the Chancellor did not take the opportunity to include seaside amusement arcades in his 5% VAT relief.  He was also totally silent on support for supply chains.  That is a huge oversight and jeopardises the recovery.  For companies so badly affected the 25% Corporation Tax rate from April 2023 for companies with profits over £250k is a kick in the teeth.  New loans are just adding more debt to already distressed companies.   We have written to the Chancellor to make these points very forcibly.

BUDGET SUMMAY

Economic forecast:

  • OBR expects economy to grow by 4% this year – forecasting a “swifter and more sustained recovery” than they were expecting in November.
  • Now expected that the economy will recover to its pre-Covid level by the middle of next year – six months earlier than previously expected.
  • There will be growth of 7.3% in 2022, then 1.7%, 1.6% and 1.7% in the following years.
  • In five years’ time, the OBR still expects the economy to be 3% smaller than it would have been.
  • This year the UK has borrowed £355bn. 17% of national income. Next year borrowing will be 10.3% of GDP. Because of the measures taken today, it will fall to 4.5% of GDP in 2023, then 3.5%, then 2.9%, then 2.8%.

Key announcements:

  • The 100% Business Rates Holiday will continue until the end of June. For the remaining nine months of the financial year, business rates will still be discounted by two thirds, up to a value of £2m for closed businesses.
  • The 5% reduced rate of VAT will be extended for six months to 30th September. It will then have an interim rate of 12.5% for another six months.
  • Gaming Duties will rise in line with RPI.
  • A new Recovery Loans Scheme will come into force in April, where businesses of any size can apply for loans from £25,000 – £10,000,000, through to the end of this year. Government will guarantee up to 80% of lending by providers.
  • Furlough scheme will be extended until the end of September. From July onwards, the Government will introduce an employer contribution towards the cost of unworked hours – 10% in July, 20% in August and September.
  • A new Restart Grant Scheme: £5bn fund to help High Street shops and hospitality firms recover with non-essential retail eligible for grants up to £6,000 and hospitality and leisure businesses more impacted eligible for grants up to £18,000.
  • In 2023 the rate of corporation tax, paid on company profits, will increase to 25%. a new Small Profits Rate at 19% will be introduced for businesses with profits of £50,000 or less. Above £50,000, the Corporation Tax will be tapered so only those with profit of over £250,000 pa will pay the full 25%.
  • Income Tax, VAT and National Insurance triple lock will remain in place – but Income Tax thresholds will be frozen until 2026 following this years planned uplift.
  • Extended loss carry back for businesses – up to £2,000,000 can be carried back for up to three years (specifics depend on company status).
  • Super Deduction: for the next two years when companies invest in new equipment they can offset all of the cost against tax, plus an additional 30%.
  • National Living Wage rise will continue as planned in April.
  • Incentives payment for apprentices has been doubled to £3,000 per apprentice.

There are a few things with in this budget to help pubs and social clubs, notably the Restart Grant Scheme. It needs to be easily and quickly accessible to help get premises equipped with what’s needed to not only open up but help with the extra costs of outdoor drinking. If Comrie can help you in any way with your fruit machine hire or jukebox and pool table requirements please get in touch.

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FOBT stake change “not as bad as expected”

FOBT stake change “not as bad as expected”.

UK bookmaker Betfred has said the FOBT stake change was “not as bad as expected” with a bounce back into profit in its most recent fiscal year after two straight years of negative results.

In its latest financial reports, total gambling turnover hit £10.1bn, down from £13.2bn in 2018, and revenue fell 12 percent to £621m, however operating profit came in at nearly £74.8m a dramatic turn around.

Or put another way – The Bookmakers as a whole were feeding the government, media and the public with false information to keep their unlevel playing field over pubs, amusement arcades, bingo halls and other venues. But it has not ended up with up to fifty percent of their shops closing like some of them were falsely predicting.

Their unfair advantage carried on for many years solely because of the monies they have been earning, giving them vastly more power in swaying the government to let them continue with these unfair and addictive type gaming machines. We are glad that after years of pressure from different lobbing groups the government changed the stakes for FOBT machines.

Pubs and clubs can have a digital roulette or poker machine it is in a different format that is £1 per play in pubs and a maximum £2 per play in clubs. This machine is a far softer gaming machine that offers customers entertainment rather than an FOBT machine which were how the media described them – ‘The crack cocaine of gambling’

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MP issued with lifetime pub ban as licensees turn bitter

MP issued with lifetime pub ban as licensees turn bitter

Publicans in Warrington have vented their anger on their Curfew supporting member of Parliament by issuing him with a lifetime ban. Andy Carter, the MP representing Warrington South, was issued the ban following a unanimous vote by the Cheshire town’s Pubwatch members.

The decision means that Carter, the Conservative MP who was only elected in 2019, has been banned from entering the town’s pubs, bars, and clubs that are members of the organisation which was formed to promote best practice with aim of achieving a safer drinking environment in all licensed premises throughout the UK.

A spokesperson for the Warrington branch told local media that the 10pm Curfew “had absolutely killed us” arguing the main trading time for town centre pubs and bars was between 11pm and 1am.

He added that the curfew was not backed by any scientific or credible evidence and that Carter had displayed zero support for the hospitality sector in tis hour of need with publicans fearful for their livelihoods.

Defending his actions and those of the government, Andy Carter responded “It is simply not true to say the government hasn’t supported the hospitality industry. Pubs have received grants, access to loans and government schemes including Eat Out to Help Out and more recently back-dated support to August for those areas which were in tier two prior to lockdown”. He went on to add, “The 10pm closing is a decision taken by central Government to help reduce the spread of the deadly virus. I am disappointed to see licensees using an important scheme like Pubwatch to keep people who go to licensed premises in Warrington Town centre safe, for political aims, it’s totally against what it was set up for and brings the scheme into disrepute.”

We totally agree the government is killing pubs and clubs. they are being used as an escape goat, when the track and trace evidence clearly proves hospitality is not a big spreader of the Covid virus. Many bars and restaurants are far safer environments than your local supermarket where everyone is going about their normal day to day. Add in to this the money that has been spent on PPE and other safety measures and now they can not open, or if in tier two only with food. This is still unviable not only for wet lead venues but also licensed premises who are not predominantly food outlets.

It is very sad to see one of Great Britain’s massive employers and nations favorites get pushed to the brink of extinction. Not to mention the many industries that feed off pubs, social clubs, bars, restaurants and night clubs. Also why should these these venues get loans and go in to debt when the rest of the retail sector is now fully up and running. Pubs due to many reasons (high rates, supermarket loss leader pricing, pub company tie-ins) had been experiencing hard times before this outbreak, so this just adds to the problem. We ourselves have experienced first hand the loss of pubs and social clubs closing down permanently and having to remove our fruit machines on hire and other equipment from these venues.

 

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IS THE END OF COINS IN SIGHT???

IS THE END OF COINS IN SIGHT???

The Royal Mint has confirmed that it will not be making any new £2 coins and 2p coins until 2030 at the earliest. The announcement came after a report from the National Audit Office said that the Mint was storing surplus coins way beyond the Treasury’s target buffer.

The report explained – while the storage cost of the excess stocks is relatively small, the Mint’s next decade as it balances maintaining production capability with steady stock reduction.

The excess number of coins in circulation covers all denominations. Holdings of 1p and 2p coins are six and eight times above their buffer targets respectively with £2 coins calculated to be 26 times over target.

The surplus is being attributed to the decline in cash payments, a trend that has been accelerated by changes impacting all aspects of retailers during COVID.

Figures from the National Audit Office show a 59 percent decline in the volume of cash payments between 2008 – 2019 with experts predicting the number of cash payments falling to one in ten before the end of the decade.

During the national lockdown concerns over the spread of Coronavirus has led many retailers to stop accepting cash as a payment method with the demand for cash from banks and ATMs slumping by over 70 percent during March and April.

Although the use of cash has subsequently increased, the NAO believes it is too early to assess the loner term impact on cash access and usage. The report confirmed – the experiences of consumers during this period may offer new insights for the future into the potential impact of markedly reduced cash use.

The reduction in the use of cash and the prognosis outlined by the NAO paints  a bleak picture for the pub, bingo and AGC sectors which are prohibited from using electronic payment methods, something that must change if the industry is to be given the opportunity to survive and prosper.

So many people rely on cash to live there lives it would be a big blow for millions of people. No doubt we will become a cashless society but this needs to be done gradually over the next 10-15 years to help people. In the mean time they need all shops and businesses to accept cash. Comrie are already keeping a close eye on the new cashless fruit machines for pubs and social clubs that are being tested as I type this.

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