Fury continues to grow over the pasty tax in Cornwall. Ever since the Chancellor first announced his decision to impose VAT on hot take-out food in last week’s budget, the pasty industry has been counting the cost. Greggs, the popular bakery chain, had £20m wiped off its share price as investors realised the new tax would mean 18 pence added to the price of a 90p sausage roll. Greggs employs 20,000 people across the UK. The boss of Greggs, who’d earlier put his case to the Treasury, told BBC’s Newsnight: ‘I do fear there are going to be job losses and closures of businesses as a result of this.’
The pasty tax is putting pressure on the Coalition too. Cornish Lib-Dem MPs are up in arms over it. ‘Pasties aren’t just a symbol of Cornwall, they are a key part of our manufacturing economy and thousands of people in Cornwall are employed either directly or indirectly by the pasty industry,’ says Alex Folkes MP. ‘Raising the price of pasties, especially when the extra money goes to the Government, not the firms, will cut sales and lead to job losses.’
Mebyon Kernow – which calls for greater self-government in Cornwall – also sees it as a blow for the local economy. ‘If and when this legislation is introduced,’ said one of its councillors, ‘your £2.50 medium steak pasty will now be £3, and your £3 large steak pasty will be £3.60. So that’s money out of ordinary decent Cornish folks’ pockets, a blow to our bakers and hardly great news for tourism.’
In response, the Chancellor has said people should eat Cornish pasties cold to get round the tax. Cornish MPs Dan Rogerson, Stephen Gilbert and Andrew George have all signed a parliamentary petition against the tax proposal. The MP for North Cornwall is especially keen to see the tax does not have a negative impact on the local pasty industry.
‘One proposal that has been suggested is to exempt foods which have Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) status,’ argues Rogerson, ‘which the Cornish pasty does. This would mean that the pasty – which is a key part of our regional culture – can be protected.’ Only by using European Union bureaucracy to elevate the pasty to the similar status of Champagne or Parmigiano-Reggiano, it seems, may the humble pleasure of eating a warm pasty be saved.
Was this what the Chancellor intended? The Pasty Tax should be scrapped.