Two regional dailies are today celebrating victory after the government made a U-turn over its controversial Budget proposals for a tax on pasties.
The Western Morning News launched its Axe the Pasty Tax campaign in March attracting signatures from 500,000 readers, while The Journal, Newcastle ran a similar campaign called Save Our Savouries.
Last night The Treasury announced that hot bakery goods will now be exempt from the proposals to put VAT on hot snacks which would have seen the price of a £2.50 pasty increase by 50p.
The Sun greeted the decision with a front page headlined ‘Pasta la vista, taxman’ while Chancellor George Osborne appeared to hand the credit to the national red-top The Sun, saying the government “had listened to Sun readers.”
But regional newspapers have been swift to highlight the fact that, on this occasion, it was not just The Sun wot won it.
In a leader column in today’s Morning News, deputy editor Phil Bowern said the pasty tax was a disaster waiting to happen and trying to charge VAT on a hot baked product that remained above ambient temperature at the point of sale was simply nonsense.
He wrote: “You have to make allowances for senior politicians however. It has taken them more than two months to get the message. Yet after a great deal of concerted campaigning by the Western Morning News and others, they have seen sense and scrapped the proposal.
“The Cornish Pasty Association, whose members would have been devastated by the addition of 50p on a standard fresh-baked pasty hot from the oven, took their battle to the heart of Government with our support and that of Lib Dem MP Stephen Gilbert.”
Journal editor Brian Aitken added: “Greggs is a North East institution and we launched Save Our Savouries when it became apparent what the possible impact would be for jobs and the local economy. Hundreds of people filled in our protest coupons, including the Duchess of Northumberland who told us her children were raised on steak bakes.
“I don’t care whether the Government has performed a u-turn or whether they have just listened to the arguments that have been put to them – I’m just pleased that common sense has prevailed.”
Phil told HTFP that the WMN campaign’s success showed that print media could still play an important role in communities.
He added: “It started as a social media campaign and went from there. Pasties are important to our readers. It gave us something to wave in the face of politicians.”
As part of the campaign the newspaper arranged for hundreds of Proper Cornish pasties to be driven from Cornwall to Parliament to lobby MPs.
At the pasty lunch, co-hosted by Mr Gilbert, WMN editor Bill Martin described the proposal as “anti-Westcountry”.
Only pasties and bakery goods re-heated or kept warm in cabinet heaters will now be subject to VAT.
Under the original plans pasties sold when cooling from the oven would have been hit by the service tax.