Help must be given to good causes on VAT

THE plight of some of our region's most vital charities throws into sharp relief the rather less visible repercussions of the VAT rise.

In Leeds, bosses at St Gemma's Hospice in Moortown say Chancellor George Osborne's 2.5 per cent increase will force them to find a further 30,000 this year.

Sue Ryder Care, which runs six hospices including Wheatfields in Headingley, reports it is likely to cost them 1m.

As a whole, the charitable sector in this country will be 145m worse off in 2011 as a direct result of the decision to lift the rate of VAT to 20 per cent.

Such added costs could not come at a worse time for charities, with the downturn reflected in dwindling donations. So it is entirely understandable that these groups are now asking the Government for help.

Parts of the NHS, quite rightly, are exempt from paying VAT. So why aren't charities?

Many voluntary organisations fulfil a comparable role, offering free support and care for those with serious, life-limiting conditions.

The extra 1million that Sue Ryder Care expects to pay this year could, for instance, have provided 50,000 hours of in-patient care at Wheatfields.

David Cameron and George Osborne should acknowledge the hardship the VAT hike will inflict on already hard-up charities.

And if they want these bodies to go on playing an important part in the much-trumpeted Big Society, they must give them the help they need to do so.

Highbury hopes high

FOR those old enough to remember, this weekend's FA Cup tie against Arsenal inevitably sends thoughts racing back to Leeds United's 1972 Wembley triumph.

Fans who were there on that famous May day can still vividly recall the moment Allan 'Sniffer' Clarke headed the Whites in front with a goal that would go on to secure the cup.

Of course, the fortunes of the two clubs have diverged dramatically in recent years and a division now separates them.

However, Leeds supporters will stream down the M1 on Saturday, emboldened by recent performances and last season's slaying of Manchester United.

Let's hope today's crop of Whites can emulate those heroes of nearly 40 years ago.

Gripping read

WITH typical subject matter ranging from druids and mystical stones to strange lights and the astronomical significance of Renaissance art, no one could accuse Northern Earth magazine of being a dull read.

Founded in Leeds in 1979, the publication is still going strong today, exploring the mysteries and

folklore that have fascinated and perplexed us through the ages.

Credit to editor John Billingsley and his team for covering the topics other magazines simply cannot reach.