Osborne misses out at bingo hall

George Osborne regional visit to South Wales

%VIRTUAL-SkimlinksPromo%He may have claimed to have turned around the UK's economic fortunes, but Chancellor George Osborne failed to make a profit as he tried his luck at bingo.

The Tory MP visited a Castle Bingo outlet in Cardiff today to highlight the UK Government's recent Budget plan to cut bingo tax.
It was part of three events in south Wales, which also saw Mr Osborne pay a visit to Port Talbot's steelworks and The Royal Mint in Llantrisant.

Although critics have labelled the way in which the Tory-led administration promoted its decision to cut bingo tax as "patronising" to the working classes, Mr Osborne was greeted with smiles by those enjoying a flutter in the Welsh capital.

He took part in a £1 main game session alongside bingo regulars, who helped the multi-millionaire keep tabs on his numbers.

Bingo regular Margaret Evans, 73, of Cardiff, who was in the bingo hall at the time at the same time as the Chancellor, said: "He looked like he enjoyed himself.

"I was quite surprised when I came down here today and heard that the Chancellor of the Exchequer - who's mega rich - would be coming to play a game of bingo.

She joked: "I just hope the economy isn't that bad that George Osborne needs to find a few quid from playing bingo!"

The Chancellor also paid a visit to The Royal Mint - which comes following the announcement a radically differently shaped £1 coin is to be put into circulation by 2017.

He also spoke with bosses at Tata Steel's Port Talbot works - who gave a thumbs up to last week's Budget.

Mr Osborne said the Government's annual spending plan would boost big industry via a £7 billion promise to reduce energy costs.

"Welsh manufacturing is some of the best in the world," the Chancellor said.

"There is no reason why Wales and Britain cannot lead the world in advanced manufacturing."

Karl Kohler, the boss of Tata Steel's European operations, welcomed the Government's plans.

"The measures announced in the Budget to introduce relief against the rapidly rising costs of energy taxes, which pose a very real risk to Britain's foundation industries, are extremely welcome."

The Port Talbot steelworks employs more than 3,000 staff, with a 1,000-strong contractor workforce.

Its fortunes dipped during the recession, but bosses are targeting the production of 4.3 million
tonnes of steel by the end of the year.

Earlier in the day, Mr Osborne voiced his concerns about traffic problems along sections of the M4 in south Wales.

Speaking to BBC Radio Wales, he said: "It's one of the bottlenecks for the entire United Kingdom and, again, not dealt with for years and years and years, and damaging to the Welsh economy.

"We don't want to wait for those borrowing powers to be in place, we want the Welsh Assembly Government to get on and to be able to fund this earlier.

"Why wait for a vital improvement that will support jobs in the area?"

He also spoke about the ongoing row between ministers in London and Cardiff Bay about the upgrade of the Great Western mainline.

The dispute is over who pays for a separate electrification of railway lines in the south Wales valleys.

Mr Osborne insisted the valleys lines work was mainly the responsibility of the Welsh Government, which has said the UK government should foot the bill.

"The deal was set out in 2012. There's a shared financing for the whole electrification process," he said.

"The London to Swansea line, which obviously is principally the responsibility of the Westminster government, and then the valleys lines which is principally the responsibility of the Welsh government."

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Osborne misses out at bingo hall

In a surprise move, the Chancellor announced today that he was scrapping the alcohol duty escalator, which adds inflation plus at least 2% to the price of alcoholic drinks.

He also said that he would be cutting the price of a pint of beer by 1p as he did last year, and that duty on whiskey and ordinary cider would be frozen this year.

The duty on alcoholic drinks has been frozen for Scotch whiskey and cider, and cut by 1p for beer.

The duty on cigarettes, however, will rise by 2% above inflation, adding to the costs faced by people unable to ditch the habit.

The Chancellor told MPs that the number of bingo halls in the UK had "plummeted" by three quarters over the last 30 years.

As a result, he has decided to halve the duty paid on the popular numbers game to just 10%. There was bad news for those who prefer to have a flutter on the horses, though.

Fixed odds betting terminals in bookies will now be taxed at a higher rate of 25%, while the horserace betting levy will be extended to include bookmakers who are based offshore.

"Support for savers is at the centre of this Budget," the Chancellor said at the start of his speech. And he did not disappoint.

The biggest surprise was a revamp for tax-efficient individual savings accounts (ISAs), with the existing cash and stocks and shares accounts being merged and the annual limit being raised to £15,000.

This is up from a planned limit of £11,880 - including up to £5,940 in a cash ISA - and will mean that savers keen to avoid risk can invest up to the full amount in a savings account.

However, older savers will also be pleased to learnt that the government is planning to launch a new pensioner bond available to anyone aged over 65 and expected to offer rates of around 4% over three years.

Not all the announcements made in the Budget were surprises. It was, for example, widely reported earlier in the week that working parents will be given up to £2,000 per child to ease the cost of child care from later this year.

The plans should help to meet 85% of the costs faced by low income families, the government said.

But all families with children under 12 will be eligible, as long as the parents' joint incomes do not exceed £300,000.

All annuity restrictions on how you control your pension pot (if you have one) will be abolished. No longer do you have to buy an annuity.
Instead, people can take more of the money as a lump sum on retirement. The total pension savings that can be taken as a lump sum will be increased from £18,000 to £30,000 on March 27th. 
Tax on cash taken out of pension pot on retirement will be reduced from 55% to 20%.

Everyone aged 65-plus has the opportunity to save with a new NS&I pensioner bond, likely to be 2.8% for a one-year bond, 4% on a three-year bond. There's a maximum £10k per bond limit though.

British drivers have been given some respite from George Osborne. The threat of a fuel duty rise has been banished in the Chancellor's new Budget. Osborne claims fuel prices are now up to 20% lower than they might have been under Labour. 

The Budget included good news for working parents who can now claim a childcare subsidy worth up to £2,000 per child.

However, families where one parent stays at home to take care of the children will not qualify for the new scheme.

There has been a lot of debate about the loophole that allows rich investors to buy properties in the UK through companies, thus avoiding stamp duty.

And now, it seems, the government has decided to take action to stop the practice. "From midnight tonight anyone purchasing residential property worth over half a million pounds through a corporate envelope will be required to pay 15% stamp duty," Osborne said.

He also announced plans to expand the tax to residential properties worth more than £500,000.

The Budget included a number of measures designed to crack down on people who avoid paying tax.

Perhaps the most significant was the announcement that the taxman will be able to take money from the accounts of those who refuse to pay.

Osborne said: "We will give HMRC modern powers to collect debts from bank accounts of people who can afford to pay but have repeatedly refused to, like most other Western countries."

"Never again" should the welfare system be allowed to spiral out of control, said Osborne, as he outlined more plans to cap welfare payments - setting the overall limit for 2015-16 at £119bn, excluding state pensions and unemployment benefits.

The cap is in line with official forecasts for welfare spending, but has been highlighted as a very political move as it will require the future chancellor to cut benefits whichever party he or she comes from.


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