In recognition of the political importance of Chatham and how it is "fertile ground for a resurgent Conservative Party", the Financial Times dedicated its series of "My Budget Verdict" to residents from across Chatham. You can read the verdicts of the Entrepreneur, tailor, the regeneration specialist, pensioner, doctor, and professor all online but below is the verdict of the the brewer.
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Chatham was, it is said, the only naval dockyard without a working brewery - an oversight being addressed by the Nelson Brewing Company. Owner Piers MacDonald bought the micro-brewery in 2006 after he left the pub trade, fearing the smoking ban would damage business. He feels vindicated as sales of bottled beer have risen from 5 per cent of the company's £200,000 turnover, to more than 25 per cent, indicating that more people are drinking at home. Mr MacDonald, 41, believes there is a future for cask ales and he is infuriated by the argument for raising beer duty to curb binge-drinking. "Traditional cask ale pubs are just not where the binge-drinking culture is. And for those businesses that sell alcohol products as a loss-leader, just bumping up the duty won't stop them selling it at a loss." Mr MacDonald is also worried about the direction of the economy and the "huge debt burden", which will mean that people will have less money to spend when "it's getting harder for pubs to make a living". Not a Labour supporter, he says there is "nothing they could do now to make me vote for them".
VERDICT "You do despair. We have been getting lots of lectures about tackling binge-drinking and had been looking for some long-term vision from the government. But lifting duty across the board just raises more cash for the government - and will not prevent drink being sold by supermarkets as a loss-leader."
So now we know what ordinary people from Chatham think of the Budget too - and they weren't impressed either! A tired Budget from tired Government - its time for a change.