The 2016 Budget

The following article was originally published in the North Wales Weekly News newspaper on 23 March 2016.
Last Wednesday’s Budget was notable for its inclusion of that rarest of fiscal provisions: a tax that will be widely welcomed.  The Chancellor announced that he was imposing a levy on the sugar content of soft drinks.  The immediate response from Jamie Oliver, the celebrity chef who has campaigned for a tax on over-sweetened fizz, was to do a little jig in front of the cameras on College Green.
Jamie’s celebration will be repeated across the country, because the fact is that the nation’s health is being ruined by over-consumption of sugar.  It leads to obesity, tooth decay, diabetes and cancer, and puts a huge strain on the National Health Service.  Some cans of soft drinks contain as many as 13 teaspoons of sugar.  We have been poisoning ourselves for decades.
Now the fizzy drinks makers have two years to reduce the sugar content of their products, after which they will have to pay the levy.  The tax raised will be applied to support school sport, so the impact on the health of the population will be doubly beneficial. We should all raise a glass of sparkling water to Jamie and George.
From a local perspective, the announcement of a North Wales Growth Deal was enormously welcome.  As I wrote some weeks ago, North Wales must be fully plugged into the development of the Northern Powerhouse if it is not to be left behind.  I expressed the same views at recent meetings I had with both the Chancellor and the Prime Minister.  The Budget announcement means that they listened and they understood.
The Growth Deal will call for commitment from government at all levels.  Next month, I will be accompanying a delegation of members of the North Wales Economic Ambition Board and the Mersey-Dee Alliance to a meeting with the Chancellor in Downing Street, to discuss the first steps.
It is also important for the Welsh Government to be enthusiastically involved in the process. Cardiff must recognise that the South Wales economy has benefited from strong support from Westminster over recent years. Now it is North Wales’s turn.

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