Budget 2014: Osborne falls short on gambling, APD

GEORGE Osborne said he delivered a Budget for the makers, doers and savers - but has been told he must do better.

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George Osborne was told he must do better after Budget announcement
George Osborne was told he must do better after Budget announcement

Measures on air passenger duty (APD), gambling machines and help for the poorest families have fallen short of what is needed say Glasgow politicians and campaigners.

The Chancellor announced a rise in earnings before tax is paid and increased amounts that can be saved tax free.

He scrapped a planned rise in petrol duty, cut beer and cider tax by a penny and froze whisky tax, while continuing to put up tobacco.

He said he was helping the aviation industry with measures to reduce APD and aid route development.

He cut the duty on bingo halls but increased the duty to be raised from controversial fixed odds betting terminals (FOBT) such as roulette machines in bookies'.

Mr Osborne announ-ced a cut in the highest rate of APD meaning long-haul flights to Australia and China will pay a lower rate, and the same as US flights.

There is no change to the tax on European or domestic connecting flights, which adversely affects Glasgow.

A Glasgow Airport spokesman said: "Any moves to address APD, which simply serves to artificially depress demand and dissuade airlines from flying to and from Scotland, should be welcomed.

"The announcement by the Chanc-ellor is recog-nition that APD is a barrier to growth, how-ever, it falls short of prov-iding material benefit to Glas-gow Airport as the vast majority of our passengers fall into bands A and B, which will be retained."

LIZ Cameron, chief executive of Scottish Chambers of Commerce said: "Even this move will still leave the UK with the highest such taxes in Europe.

"More needs to be done to tackle the burden of these taxes, particularly on Scotland's airports."

The Chancellor raised tax on FOBTs because they were "highly lucrative", but he has been criticised for not dealing with the gambling problem.

Mr Osborne said: "Fixed odds betting terminals have prolif-erated since gambling laws were liberalised almost a decade ago.

"These machines are highly lucrative, and it's right we raise the duty on them to 25%."

Glasgow has more betting shops than any other city in the UK with more than 200

Councillors have been concerned that bookies are targeting poorer communities.

Labour councillor and city treasurer Paul Rooney said: "Our focus and concern is on the users and players of these machines. This does nothing to address the problem.

I CAN understand the Chancellor wanting to increase the tax take but our focus has to be on addressing people getting into financial difficulty.

"We want a curb on the takings."

Shettleston MSP John Mason said: "We already know that, in poorer areas in particular, the operators of FOBTs are coining it in at the expense of low-income young men, who are vulnerable when using these machines, often losing hundreds of pounds within minutes.

"On the one hand I would support increased tax so the money can go to schools and hospitals rather than as profits to these companies. But longer term I want to see fewer machines."

Campaigners said the Chancellor failed to announce any measures to tackle poverty, focus-ing on higher earners.

Head of the Child Poverty Action Group in Scotland John Dickie said: "This Budget locks in misguided policies that are already set to push up to 100,000 more children into poverty in Scotland alone.

"The Chancellor's so called 'cap on welfare' introduces a rationing of basic support for chil-dren, working families and disabled people.

"Raising the personal tax allowance does little good for many of the lowest paid workers. Many don't pay tax."

Patrick Harvie, Green MSP for Glasgow, said: "Wages are down, people are taking out loans to pay for everyday items, and Scotland's biggest foodbank is struggling to keep its shelves filled.

"As poverty becomes embedded in society we see Tories and Libdems gloating over their Dickensian decay, with Labour offering to finish the job. Diversionary tac-tics, flashing a thrupp-enny bit and tweaking bingo tax, make it clear-er than ever we have a Westminster elite laughing as they gamble with people's lives.

The Chancellor said oil revenues were falling warning against indep-endence but Finance Secretary John Swinney said production was due to rise in coming years.

stewart.paterson@ eveningtimes.co.uk

Local government

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