Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Bishop’s concern over Budget and Sunday trading laws

The Bishop of Chichester has raised questions over the freeze on tax allowances for the over-65s and plans to relax Sunday trading laws for the Olympics.

The Chancellor has come under fire for the so-called ‘granny tax’ predicted to leave around five million pensioners worse off.

The move has been branded a “stealth” raid on middle-class pensioners by the media.

Addressing the House of Lords, the Rt Rev John Hind said: “When it comes to the proposal to freeze the tax allowances for the over-65s, I need to declare a double interest. First, I am about to become one of [them], but secondly, and much more importantly, from my experience as the bishop of a diocese which contains a large number of pensioners who do not often have the benefit of occupational pension schemes and are struggling under the burden they are already bearing, I know of the fear which they experienced at hearing some of yesterday's announcements.”

The bishop said it was understandable that the Government wanted to maximise commercial opportunities offered by the Olympic Games taking place in London this summer.

However, he questioned the motive behind relaxing trading laws across an eight-week period.

“I am well aware that any attempt to question what the Government have proposed in this regard will sound either like party-pooping or special pleading,” he said.

“I do not wish to speak against the principle of a strictly time-limited and tightly drawn element of deregulation while the Games are in progress and in locations close to the main events. To remove all restrictions for an eight-week period, however, sounds suspiciously like a stalking horse for the wider deregulation for which some large retailers have been campaigning for a long time. Therefore, we will watch this space with a degree of skepticism.”

Bishop Hind welcomed some aspects of the Budget, including the raising of the threshold of the basic rate of tax and the cut-off for child benefit payments.

“The higher figure removes the unfairness in the previous announcement, which would have created the perverse incentive for two parents on relatively low, modest salaries both to work outside the home rather than enabling one to be devoted to the care of very young children,” he said.

“It would also have hit a large number of middle-income families.”
He also welcomed new anti-tax avoidance measures, the introduction of a new gift aid small donations scheme, and more investment in Armed Forces accommodation.