What's the point of the new car subsidy?

I SUPPOSE I shouldn't have been surprised that in the depth of a recession we should have one of the dullest budget speeches on record, but Alastair Darling did seem to find the perfect cure for insomnia this year.

I SUPPOSE I shouldn't have been surprised that in the depth of a recession we should have one of the dullest budget speeches on record, but Alastair Darling did seem to find the perfect cure for insomnia this year.

In fact it was difficult to concentrate on what he was saying when there was something far interesting happening in our newsroom - details were coming in of the sacking of Jim Magilton!

Despite all his fine words, there was very little of interest for most people in Mr Darling's speech to the House of Commons.

The economy is in such dire straits that he had no wriggle-room and in fact there was very little in his speech for most people.

The only group who really had something to interest them were those who earn more than �150,000 a year and who will find themselves having to pay considerably more tax.

I hope you'll excuse me if I don't feel too sorry for them!

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Elsewhere there was little to get interested in - even if Mr Darling does seem to think that the new “scrappage” scheme will boost the British car industry by paying motorists �2,000 to scrap their 10-year-old banger and buy a new vehicle.

It's worked in Germany where new car sales have gone through the roof, so why shouldn't it work here?

In Britain it's a total white elephant - and if Mr Darling thinks it will boost the car industry he's going to come down to earth with a bang.

For a start the vast majority of private motorists - as opposed to fleet managers - buy used, rather than new cars. There are seven used cars sold for every new car sold privately.

About two thirds of new cars are sold to fleets in this country - in most European countries the concept of a “company car” is totally alien and everyone buys their own vehicle.

Also there is a culture on the continent of buying a new car and running it into the ground, then buying another new car a decade later.

The second-hand market is nowhere near as important - and is seen very much as a poor-man's alternative.

Here things are very different. Most people buy used cars. Earlier this spring I traded in my seven-year-old car (which would not qualify for scrappage) for a two-year-old vehicle.

That's what many people do in Britain, and the scheme announced in the budget would not change my behaviour. Even if an extra �2,000 had been on offer I would not have paid �15,000 for a Vauxhall Insignia rather than �6,000 for my two-year-old Vectra.

And I can't really think anyone would want to trade in a ten-year-old Cavalier for a brand new car ... Britons don't drive like that!

I WAS trying to think of someone who really has been hit by the budget, and then I came up with a name.

So it's time for us all to feel sorry for someone who's likely to be several thousand pounds poorer after Alastair Darling's attack on high earners.

Let's all start feeling sorry for county council chief executive Andrea Hill. It must be tough facing such a huge tax bill!