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Chancellor has come under fire for ‘A cut and paste budget’

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The chancellor has come under fire for allegedly creating a “cut and paste” budget that omits the tax adjustments required to save eateries and bars.

The industry trade association, UK Hospitality, stated that Jeremy Hunt’s budget did not do enough to help “bridge the sector through a difficult period” and did not lower the rising expenses that companies were now facing.

Allen Simpson, deputy chief executive of the body, said: “I listened to the budget waiting for the support the industry needs, and it didn’t come; it was a cut and paste from last time.

“He’s pulling levers that he’s pulled before, and didn’t work, we believe that the levers he needs to pull are the levers which support costs for businesses.”

The chancellor announced that the freeze on alcohol duty would be extended until September, with the change expected to save 3p on a pint of beer.

But UK Hospitality and businesses had been calling for a reduction in VAT to 12.5% for hospitality businesses, as well as putting a 3% cap on business rates when they rise by an expected 6.7% in April.

More than 6,000 hospitality venues closed due to cost pressures in the 12 months up to December 2023, according to the Hospitality Market Monitor.

Stosie Madi, co-owner of the Parkers Arms pub in Lancashire, said businesses were relying on a VAT cut, and the lack of action could lead to higher prices for consumers.

She said: “He’s not reduced VAT. That’s the biggest thing that could help hospitality, because hospitality is on its knees because all the costs are going up.”

Chris Jowsey, chief executive at Admiral Pubs, said: “The industry reckons it’s worth about £114m in a year, the problem is we pay £15bn in taxes.

“So it’s a welcome nose towards pubs but it’s not really sufficient in that sense.”

Retailers were also disappointed at Hunt’s failure to reduce business rates, which will increase in line with the CPI inflation rate in April.

Helen Dickinson, the chief executive of the British Retail Consortium, which represents most major retailers, said: “How can a whopping 6.7% tax rise in April be justified, when the chancellor himself is saying inflation is forecast to be nearer 2%.

“The cost of living crisis has taken a toll on businesses and households. Consumer confidence remains low and retail sales volumes in 2023 were the lowest in four years.

“Yet the chancellor has done little to promote growth and investment, instead hindering it with the business rates rise in April.”

There was also anger that the government did not revive tax-free shopping for overseas tourists, a relief it scrapped in 2021.

More than 500 business leaders, backed by the British Chambers of Commerce and the Federation for Small Businesses, wrote to Jeremy Hunt asking him to reinstate the tax break.

However, Hunt’s revelation that pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca will be investing £650m into two new facilities in Liverpool and Cambridge, thanks to government support for the life sciences sector, was warmly received.

This includes£450m of investment into a manufacturing site at its research facility in Speke, Liverpool, which will support research, development and manufacture of vaccines at the base. There will also be a £200m investment to build a new facility at a life sciences technology cluster in Cambridge.

Richard Torbett, chief executive of the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry, said: “AstraZeneca’s investment shows that if we get the policy environment right, we can reinvigorate medicine manufacturing in this country, creating new jobs and prosperity across the country.”

Elsewhere, IATA director general Willie Walsh was highly critical of the chancellor’s decision to raise air passenger duty on some flights, accusing him of breaking a promise he made in September not to raise taxes on flying.

The changes mean air passenger duty increases by 10% on premium economy and business class flights from April 2025. The rise will add £66 in tax on a businesses class fare from London to New York, meaning the fare could cost up to £647 when the changes come in.

Walsh said: “It’s a shortsighted cash grab of a government that has run out of ideas, competence and basic integrity.”

Mzaad
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Dulal Ahmed Chowdhury

Dulal Ahmed Chowdhury is the Editor of The Daily Dazzling Dawn. Previously, he has been serving in important positions in all the famous national dailies of the Bangladesh since the nineties. He has played a commendable role in journalism by participating in various events at the national and international levels. United Nations Conference, World Climate Conference, SAARC Summit are notable among them.

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