Osborne misses out at bingo hall


George Osborne regional visit to South Wales

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."

Budget 2014: Winners and Losers

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