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Mixed rural reception for Budget

[Friday 23 March 2007]
Gordon Brown
Mixed rural reception for Brown's budget

GORDON Brown's last budget as Chancellor of the Exchequer received a mixed reception from countryside organisations this week - and claims from charities that he had shot himself in the foot by damaging a charitable scheme he himself had pioneered.

Predictably, the Country Land and Business Association (CLA) attacked proposals for massive road tax increases for 4 x 4 vehicles, which Brown passed off as a campaign against so-called gas-guzzling "Chelsea tractors " - large off roaders used by wealthy townies in urban areas.

Said the CLA: "It was no real secret that Mr. Brown was going to target those vehicles that emit the highest levels of carbon. Whereas it is hard to argue against any measure which may prove effective in the campaign against Global Warming, we must highlight the case for those who live and work in rural areas and who may have no choice in the type of vehicle they can use.

"Whether they need a powerful 4x4 to access their land, or to meet legislation on how much they can tow, these vehicles really are 'workhorses' and are an essential tool for their businesses. A smaller, 'greener' vehicle could be unable or unsafe to do the job. Of course, some may say 'Why not have a smaller car as well?' In many cases, this is not an option financially, and farming families must make do with a single, dual-purpose vehicle."

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds did praise some minor changes in laws to reduce land-fill waste disposal and encourage more recycling but said the Budget lacked a long-term "green" programme.

Increasing green taxes will protect the environment and wildlife

Ian Dickie - RSPB

Ian Dickie, Senior Economist at the RSPB said: "New homes must be zero carbon by 2016 and environmental taxes need a similar long-term view. Businesses and households need that stability to plan ahead and make the commitments to tackling climate change that are so vital.

"Increasing green taxes will protect the environment and wildlife but passing the benefits on through other tax cuts shows the wider benefits green policies can bring."

Many charity bosses were bewildered that the tax changes proposed - particularly the scrapping of the 10% band - could severely damage the Gift Aid scheme, which Mr. Brown himself introduced, under which charities which receive regular donations from taxpayers can claim back the tax that would otherwise have gone to the Treasury.

Oxfam alone estimates that this will cost them £1,800,000 a year - and a huge loss of £71 million across the whole charitable sector.

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