George Osborne’s tax breaks welcomed by Hartlepool charities

AUTUMN STATEMENT ... Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne.
AUTUMN STATEMENT ... Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne.

CHANCELLOR George Osborne handed charities an early Christmas present in yesterday’s Autumn Statement.

The Chancellor announced plans to grant hospice and air ambulance charities the right to claim refunds on VAT.

Hartlepool & District Hospice senior fundraising manager Julie Hildreth said: “This is great news and a welcome relief for us.

“Any savings we can make mean that more money can be used to directly fund the care services, which are free to receive but very costly to provide.

“This year, it will cost £2.34m to pay for these services, so any reduction in outgoings is a great help to us.”

Great North Air Ambulance Service chief executive Grahame Pickering also gave the news the thumbs-up.

“Raising the money to keep our helicopters flying is a constant uphill battle, so today’s news is potentially a tremendous boost at a time when the demands upon our service are as great as ever,” he said.

“Any relief will directly benefit residents of our region, but that doesn’t mean we can let up on our fundraising efforts as we need to raise around £5million every year to keep flying.”

Business leaders welcomed news that the Government is to carry out a full “structural review” of the business rates system in England, as campaigned for by the Mail.

The review will examine the “complete structure” of a system which has been criticised for creating large discrepancies in bills across the country.

North East Chamber of Commerce (NECC) director of policy Ross Smith insisted: “The announced business rates review must be a serious review with no options off the table.

“What we have at the moment is a broken system in need of radical and rapid reform.

“I can assure the Chancellor he does not need to ask NECC to engage with him, as this is something we have been campaigning for many years.

“We have already had one limited review on business rates this year and our members will hope to see something more meaningful this time around – especially given the Chancellor confirmed further increases in the rates which will be bitterly disappointing for many businesses.”