PUBS group Punch Taverns revealed a 20% slump in half-year profits as it stepped up efforts to help struggling landlords with £2m a month in support.

Punch, which has scores of pubs in the Huddersfield area and more than 7,100 pubs UK-wide, posted underlying pre-tax profits of £66m in the six months to March 6 – down from £82m a year earlier.

It said financial aid for beleaguered pub landlords had been increased by £400,000 a month from an average of £1.6m a month last year.

But the group said trading over the Easter holiday weekend was “good and slightly ahead of last year” at its managed estate.