These days Ireland’s economy resembles not so much the Celtic tiger of yore as a rather mangy tabby that’s gone through the spin cycle one too many times. So it’s novel for a commentator to look in that direction for an example of sound economic management.
But Christopher Ogden of the Tobacco Manufacturers’ Assocation was doing just that today, noting that Ireland had long ago figured out the link between raising duty and the trade in illegal fags.
“We should have followed their example,” he argued in the wake of George Osborne’s widely trailed decision to whack another 2% to tobacco duty.
Incidentally, even the combined powers of Osborne and the anti-smoking lobby can’t stop progress – and this weekend’s edition of The Grocer will have exclusive news of what is almost certainly the UK’s most significant tobacco launch in years.
Just as grumpy as the tobacco trade today are the brewers, who saw the duty escalator remain on beer, effectively hiking tax by more than 7% (although there was the expected break for beers below 2.8% abv).
“This decision is bad for brewers, bad for pubs and bad for consumers," lamented AB InBev’s Stuart MacFarlane, although judging by the predictive powers of the man they call Mystic Mac, he probably saw it coming.
SAB Miller called the decision a “bitter disappointment” (pun presumably not intended), while the WSTA criticised a Budget that would “damage the opportunities for jobs and growth”.
A rare bit of welcome news came in the form of a cut on fuel duty, with planned increases for next year also being ditched. The FDF was in no doubt who to thank for that particular decision: itself.
“Earlier this month, we wrote to the Chancellor to express our concerns about the rising fuel cost situation and we are pleased that an increase will not now happen,” the body noted in an uncharacteristically upbeat statement.
Also due the nation’s gratitude is Morrisons, which is heroically cutting the price of its petrol a full hour early.
“The reduction in fuel duty cannot come soon enough,” dead-panned commercial director Richard Hodgson. “So that is why Morrisons is offering our customers the opportunity to save at the pumps immediately by dropping our prices in time for the drive home this evening,”
That precious 60 minutes of forecourt mayhem should at least soften the blow for all those out there devastated by the news that no new tax breaks were introduced for B2B journalists. Damn.
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