Council jobs boss’s blast at ‘pasty tax’

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A COUNCIL jobs boss in South Tyneside has joined the fight over Government plans to tax hot takeaway pies and pasties.

Coun Michael Clare, the borough’s lead member for economic growth and jobs, hit out after North East-based baker Greggs and local butcher Dicksons criticised the plan.

Chancellor George Osborne says he can’t remember when he last bought a Gregg’s pasty, but could now face a Parliamentary debate on his controversial plan.

Greggs is calling on MPs to take up the issue, and the firm also plans to set up an online Government petition.

If it were to get 100,000 supporters, it could be the subject of a Commons debate.

Coun Clare said Mr Osborne’s move would undermine a retail recovery.

He said: “If the Government is really serious about supporting business and stimulating the High Street, this is definitely the wrong way to go about it.

“Their focus on VAT as a means of generating money is an attack on the businesses they allege to support. I certainly agree with Greggs and Dicksons.”

They are opposed to Mr Osborne’s announcement in last week’s Budget that he wants to remove an anomaly where hot food takeaway chains are charged VAT while bakers avoid it.

The industry insists foods like sausage rolls and pasties are not sold as hot food, but as freshly-cooked food that is kept hot.

Dicksons’ managing director Michael Dickson says the imposition of VAT may force some small firms out of business.

The firm employs 250 people and marketing manager Elena Dickson said: “Consumers should be entitled to a freshly baked, warm savoury pastry with no extra charge.

“That is a tradition which has served customers for many years.

“Independent businesses like ours could suffer even more in a struggling economy if such a tax is introduced.”

Miss Dickson said the plan also went against Prime Minister David Cameron’s initiatives to ‘save the High Street’.

Greggs’ chief executive Ken McMeikan met with Treasury ministers yesterday to discuss the issue.

Earlier, Mr Osborne told a Commons select committee he did not eat Greggs products, adding: “I can’t remember the last time I bought a pasty.”

Select committee member, Labour’s John Mann replied: “Well, that kind of sums it up.”