THE borough saw a drop in its pub trade last year, figures reveal, despite the number of locals across the UK rising for the first time in over a decade.

Industry bodies have cautiously welcomed the national increase, but have called for tax breaks to ensure the survival of the “great British pub”.

Office for National Statistics data shows that the pumps were pouring at around 85 public houses in Test Valley in 2019 – a slight drop from the previous year, when there were 90.

In 2007, there were 110 boozers open in the area.

The introduction of the smoking ban in the same year, the impact of the great recession and a rise in alcohol duty in 2008 have all been blamed for landlords calling last orders since.

Across the UK, a 1 per cent rise in the numbers of establishments last year to just over 39,000 was the first increase since 2007, when the figure stood at 51,000.

The number of small pubs – those with fewer than 10 employees – also rose for the first time since 2002.

National chairman of the Campaign for Real Ale Nik Antona “cautiously” welcomed the fact that pubs – especially smaller ones – appeared to be bouncing back after years of closures.

“Unfortunately pubs continue to close across the country, particularly in small or rural communities,” he said.

“This means the loss of the social, cultural and economic benefits that come with a well-run local.”

Camra is calling on the Government to review business rates and lower the tax rate on beer sold in pubs.

Mr Antona added: “We urge that these asks are reflected in the forthcoming Budget to help save the great British pub.”

The British Beer and Pub Association agreed, saying that “policy makers have a great opportunity in the March Budget to help pubs flourish”.

While the number of locals across the UK has dropped in the long-term, there are more employees working in pubs on average than a decade ago.

In 2007, the average pub in the UK employed five people. Now, the figure stands at eight.

In Test Valley, a similar trend has been seen, with the average pub employing 13 staff in 2019, up from six in 2007.

A Treasury spokesman said: “Small pubs and bars are part of the heart and soul of our communities – so it’s great news they are on the rise.

“We’re committed to giving them support, which is why we will be cutting their bills in half through the business rates retail discount plus further support with a new pubs relief.”