Budget brings bingo bonanza

Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne outside 11 Downing Street before heading to the House of Commons to deliver his annual Budget statement.
Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne outside 11 Downing Street before heading to the House of Commons to deliver his annual Budget statement.

Bingo bosses on the Fylde coast say they were “overjoyed” by this year’s Budget.

Chancellor George Osborne announced a cut in duty on bingo halls from 20 per cent to 10 per cent in his speech to Parliament yesterday.

A new fund will also be set up to encourage more airlines to fly from Blackpool, while beer duty is to be cut by a penny a pint for the second year in a row.

The Chancellor’s plans mean it will be cheaper for bingo halls to operate and it is hoped, with them paying less tax to the Exchequer, it will enable club owners to invest in staff, build new venues and save others threatened with closure.

Antony Johnson, general manager of Mecca Bingo, on Talbot Road, said: “We’ve lobbied hard for years over getting tax reduced. Obviously we’re overjoyed that it’s been cut to 10 per cent. We’ve lost three quarters of our bingo halls in the last 30 years.

“We’ve been hit hard so this will give us an opportunity to create more jobs and build more bingo halls.

“It will enable us to invest because some of the clubs are ageing.”

Andrew Bottomley, whose family owns the Empire Bingo Club on Hawes Side Lane, said: “This is a welcome relief with the economic downturn.

“This is a big moral boost for the industry. It’s like the Government has given us an umbrella for the storm. We’ve been here 40 years this year, so we have to be able to count for something. We just want to keep our customers happy.”

Miles Baron, chief executive of The Bingo Association, said: “This is the most fantastic news, everyone is absolutely delighted. Bingo operators identified a programme of investment that would be freed up by a five per cent tax reduction.”

Elsewhere, duty on beer will be cut by a penny for the second year in a row.

Russ Cobb, (pictured) from the Blackpool, Fylde and Wyre branch of the Campaign for Real Ale, said: “We campaigned long and hard, and a penny off beer duty has to be welcomed.

“If it means putting another penny a pint in the pocket of landlords it’s better for them and everybody wins.”

A £20m fund will encourage airlines to start flying new routes from regional airports, including Blackpool.

Many pensioners have seen their incomes fall as a consequence of the low interest rates that Britain has deliberately pursued to support the economy.

The Chancellor has announced a Pensioner Bond will also be available from January to all over 65s, with interest rates of 2.8 per cent for one year bonds and four per cent for three year bonds.

It will be issued by National Savings and Investments and enable pensioners to earn a higher interest rate than is currently available.

Alec Fogg, treasurer of Blackpool Senior Voice, said: “With the base rate at 0.5 per cent since March 2009, it hasn’t encouraged saving.

“Pensioners used to rely on interest rates to pay utility bills but now they have had to dip into their savings.

“I personally wouldn’t want to invest in a fixed rate for more than one year because interest rates will go up at some time so I welcome the one-year Pensioner Bond.”

The Government’s Help To Buy scheme, which allows house buyers to make a deposit of just five per cent on homes up to the value of £600,000, will be extended until 2020.

Gareth Welsh, branch manager at Hunters estate agents, on Highfield Road, South Shore, said: “It’s positive news, reaffirming what’s happening in the property market at the moment.”

Blackpool North and Cleveleys MP Paul Maynard and his Fylde Tory colleague Mark Menzies both supported such measures as the Pensioner Bond and the tripling of the limit on tax free ISAs from £5,000 a year to £15,000.

And welcoming the raising of the personal tax allowance, Fleetwood MP Eric Ollerenshaw said: “The fact you can get into a job and earn £10,500 before you pay any tax must be an incentive to get into work.”

But Blackpool South Labour MP Gordon Marsden said: “The Chancellor didn’t do anything about freezing energy bills, and he didn’t introduce the 10p starting rate for tax which would help the worse off in Blackpool.

“Simply raising the personal allowance doesn’t benefit low paid people in the town.”

Labour leader Ed Miliband dismissed the Budget as full of the “same old Tory tricks” and said millions of people were worse off under the coalition government.

But Gary Lovatt, Federation of Small Business Chairman for Lancashire, said there were positive things in the Budget. He said extending the support for apprentices will “encourage more firms down this route”.

He added: “Scrapping the fuel duty increase scheduled for September keeps businesses moving, and measures aimed at tackling energy bills have to be welcomed.”