Budget today – Success for West Berkshire charity campaign

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Lobbying for the WBRRC, JB with (L-r): Lord Newby,
Tim Farron MP and WBRRC’s Andrew Sharp; JB accosting Danny Alexander, Chief Secretary to the Treasury, last October.

Fingers and toes were crossed earlier this week for news in the Budget for one of West Berks local charities.  I am glad to report success for West Berkshire Rapid Response Cars. Their campaign has reaped a reward in this year’s budget. 

Back in 2012, Andrew Sharp, the Chair of Trustees for The West Berkshire Rapid Response Cars got in touch to ask if I could help with their long running campaign to get VAT relief on the purchase of new rapid response cars.

Each car costs about £20,000 and VAT relief would provide the charity with the £4,000 it takes to equip a standard vehicle as a car appropriately decked and equipped for emergency paramedic use.

All money for the cars comes from fundraising in and around West Berkshire on charity collecting days, crafts fairs, and the wonderful Greenham Common Trust.

IMG_2627 - Version 2Cars are operated by South Central Ambulance Service and driven by SCAS paramedics, like Jerry,on a volunteer basis during off duty hours. They are based in rural corners of West Berkshire, such as Yattendon and Kintbury, where it takes ambulances far too long to reach. The Service should not need additional help from the WBRRC to cover the more remote parts of West Berkshire, but they do, and as long as emergency cover is not reaching our residents fast enough, I am delighted to have been able to work with the charity to achieve this reform.

The WBRRC drivers attend crises across West Berkshire, giving emergency help, sometimes standing ambulances down, sometimes ferrying the walking wounded to hospital in Reading, Swindon.

After three years of letter writing and lobbying and watching Air Ambulance and Rapid response boats – both charities we heartily support – get tax breaks in two budgets, at the end of last year I finally got the ear of the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, our Danny.

The budget announced this Tuesday includes the following phrase:

2.112 Rapid response vehicles – The government will provide a grant to support charities providing rapid response vehicles for medical purposes.

We understand that the grant is a sum of money set aside to go towards compensating rapid response car charities for the VAT they pay on cars and equipment and look forward to discussing the size of the grant with treasury officers as soon as possible. (Just can’t wait!)

Huge congratulations go out to Andrew, Deborah and everyone who has supported the charity and the campaign over the last few years.

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It’s paying tax that is the moral duty

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Today’s build up to the Autumn statement reminded me of David Cameron saying earlier this year that “cutting taxes is a moral duty”. When I think about that my blood runs ever so slightly cold.

How can this be right when every individual and business in the UK benefits from our state system? Should every individual and company not pay their bit towards the state education, NHS, good roads, infrastructure and social care that underpins the system in which they operate?

If you’re reading this thinking about school fees and BUPA payments, well, I’m genuinely pleased things are working out for you. Whether you are an employee or boss, however, your business would not have grown and will not survive without a well-educated, healthy, employable, mobile British society.

How does the barista get to work? Where did the coder learn his stuff? How does the latte drinker afford that extra shot? How would Google operate in the UK if we weren’t blessed with a generally educated, curious, social population, that can afford to buy computers? The common good really does benefit everyone. Paying for it, through taxation, is a good, sound and reasonable business expense.

According to government figures, the tax gap in the UK for 2012/13 is £34billion. For 2011/12 it was £35bn. For 2010/11 it was £32bn (see links below). That’s a lot of schools and roads.

I don’t call for crazy levels of taxation. Legitimate business expenses should be tax deductible. I’m glad the Liberal Democrats raised tax thresholds at the lower end of the scale. I have nothing against profit, per se. Tax avoidance however, whether it’s VAT, excise, income or corporation tax, will bring the whole tower down.

Eric Schmidt said last year that he has ‘a fiduciary responsibility to our shareholders’ that prevents the company from paying more tax abroad. I respectfully suggest Google shareholders – and others also – have a fiduciary responsibility to ensure their company pays for services rendered by the state, in any country in which it operates. 

Let’s have a shift in perspective. Forget Cameron. Paying taxes is the moral thing to do.

And if you pay yours already – good on you. You are doing the right thing.

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