The reduction in VAT from 17.5 per cent to 15 per cent has been welcomed by the president of Swindon’s Chamber of Commerce, Joanne Taylor-Stagg.

“Any relief at all is welcome,” she said. “You must remember that last week’s figures on the high street were not that bad and we hope that will continue in the light of the Chancellor’s announcement.

“We do need a stimulus in getting the economy going and we must make sure there is no more of this scaremongering. That does more harm to the economy than anything else.”

Ms Taylor-Stagg, who is the general manager of the Marriott Hotel in Swindon, said her hotel had lost 800 covers for Christmas parties this year.

“We have had had to take a hit this year because of the economy but you never know Mr Darling’s gift might encourage people to have more parties and spend more money.”

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