Locals give the Budget a decidedly mixed reaction

Richard Greathead
Richard Greathead
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The chancellor George Osborne billed it as a budget for people who aspire to work hard and get on, but people on the Fylde Coast today gave it a mixed reaction.

Businesses welcomed his measures on cutting corporation tax and national insurance, publicans were delighted with the scrapping of the beer duty escalator, and members of the public welcomed help with petrol costs but his bringing forward of the £14 a week flat rate pension and a lack of cuts to VAT left others unimpressed.

Edwina Tonner, 63, of Talbot Road, Blackpool, said there was very little in the budget for those like herself whose pension was already topped up.

She said: “At the moment I am getting £144 a week in pension but that includes pension credit, so this budget does not help people like me at all.

“Living costs and other bills are rising, but it looks like we won’t be getting anything extra coming in.

“I would have liked to have seen a cut in VAT. We have had it before and it made a real difference and if you give tax breaks to the working man, he will spend a bit more and it will go back into the economy.

“However, I am glad the health and education budgets are being ring-fenced and are not being touched.

“But overall, I think this budget has just been about tinkering around the edges.”

Politics student Jack Hopton from Blackpool and The Fylde College said he did not think the budget had changed very much for those in eductaion.

He said: “They have ring-fenced education and health budgets which is good but there’s no new investment.

“If they manage to create 600,000 new jobs as they claim then that would obviously be good as many students I know are looking for part time work now and will need employment in future.

“The scrapping of the beer escalator is good news as is the 1p off a pint, but it won’t make that much difference. My friends reckon you would have to drink 280 pints before you get a free pint.”

Businesses were more positive about the measures in yesterday’s budget.

Richard Greathead, Business Development Director of Blackpool-based food supplement and health product manufacturer Nutrition Group, welcomed changes to national insurance as a timely boost to SMEs in the region.

He said: “Anything that makes it easier for small businesses to take on more workers is a step in the right direction and the fact Mr Osborne recognises the vital role they have to play in the recovery is welcome.

“Businesses are working hard to grow and this will help.

“Taking the first £2,000 off national insurance paid by every company is a move that hopefully will make many small businesses that have been grappling whether to take on extra workers make the move.

“It also means that many employers will pay no jobs tax at all, again a step in the right direction when it comes to stimulating growth.”

Gary Lovatt, FSB Regional Chairman for Lancashire said: “Further reductions in Corporation Tax should be a boost to enterprise, while attempts to boost the housing market we hope will filter through and boost the construction sector.

“The cancellation of the fuel rise in September will help motorists while we hope the beer duty cut will help the pub and hospitality sector.

“The announcement on the employment allowance which will see businesses forego £2,000 of National Insurance contributions is potentially the main announcement in the Budget, this will help the smallest of businesses across the county to take on a first member of staff and will also assist businesses with existing costs.”

Dave Daly, North West Unite union spokesman on the pubs industry, said he would be raising a glass to George Osborne tonight after he announced that the beer escalator duty – the annual increase in tax on alcohol – was to end and 1p was to be taken off the price of a pint of beer.

He said the duty had penalised pubs by increasing the cost of a drink but had not stopped supermarkets selling alcohol cheap – which some people blame for increasing drunkenness as people overindulge before going out to bars and clubs.

He said: “The Budget has been fantastic. Cheers to George!

“We have had a dreadful time for the past 10 years, especially in Blackpool.

“The beer escalator tax has been the main problem. Scrapping it will fetch sensible drinkers back into our pubs. The Chancellor knows that 99.9 per cent of drinkers are sensible and this will help the industry and may help stop the numbers of pubs closing and the jobs being lost.”

Blackpool North and Cleveleys MP Paul Maynard was pleased with his party colleague’s fiscal announcements.

He said: “This is a budget that recognises that the global economy is still facing difficulties and those headwinds are felt here on the Fylde Coast, just like the rest of the country.

“However, we are doing what we can to tackle that which is holding families and firms back.

“That is why we are taking 2.7 million people out of paying tax, cancelling Labour’s planned fuel duty rise, scrapping Labour’s beer tax escalator while knocking a penny off a pint, and helping small businesses hire more people through a National Insurance break on new employment. No one can guarantee growth but what we can do is make sure we are resilient and able to cope in these turbulent times.”

However Blackpool South MP Gordon Marsden said it was all a matter of credibility.

He said: “What this budget has shown is that the Chancellor’s ability to forecast accurately has been shot through and shot through again.

“We have a forecast of 0.6 per cent growth this is down from 1.2 per cent and it is the third or fourth downgrade. It begs the question, can we trust this man’s strategy and I would say the answer is no.

“The most important thing is growth and confidence without them anything he might have offered business in terms of the National Insurance break, which is most welcome, and cuts in Corporation Tax, means nothing.

“The National Insurance break for people wanting to take on a member of staff will only be useful if they have confidence in growth.

“There are no real stimuli in this budget to get people in the Fylde spending more or taking on many more staff or apprentices.

“We needed cuts in VAT on repairs and tourism to stimulate growth to get the Fylde economy moving and none of that has come.

“There is not a lot of point telling people in the public sector to accept a one per cent pay settlement when he is doing nothing to reduce the tax cuts millionaires are going to be getting in April.”

BUDGET 2013 - THE HIGHLIGHTS

* The GDP growth in 2014 is forecast to be 1.8%, then 2.3% in 2015, 2.7% in 2016 and 2.8% in 2017, according to the Office for Budget Responsibility.

* The OBR forecasts higher employment, with 600,000 more jobs expected in 2013 than this time last year.

* The public sector pay cap of 1% is to be extended by one year in 2015/16.

* Infrastructure plans to be boosted by £3bn a year from 2015/16.

* There will be a “generous” new tax regime to promote investment in shale gas.

* Corporation tax will be reduced by a further 1% to 20% in April 2015.

* New Employment Allowance will take the first £2,000 off the employer National Insurance bill of every company in the country.

* Tax-free child care vouchers worth £1,200 per child and increased support for families with children on universal credit.

* The flat rate pension worth £144 a week will be brought forward to 2016.

* A new Help-to-Buy scheme for those struggling to find mortgage deposits

* The planned 3p rise in beer duty tax has also been scrapped and replaced by a 1p cut in duty on a pint of beer.