David Prosser: Two wheels good for kids

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The Independent Online

Outlook Halfords' call yesterday for the Government to cut VAT to 5 per cent on children's bikes was a bit of naked self-interest, but the idea is no less sensible for that. If we want to tackle childhood obesity while also inculcating environmentally friendly behaviour in our kids from an early age, why not offer a tax break aimed at boosting bike use?

In fact, boosting the number of children who cycle regularly is official government policy, with various schemes promoting road safety, bike handling skills and riding to school already having received funding.

But Halfords is right and we should go further. Assuming that getting people on to bikes while they're still young is the best way to persuade them to cycle throughout their lives, the market for children's cycles is the best one at which to aim tax incentives.

If we can't find the cash to fund such an idea, one option would be to redirect some money from the cycle-to-work scheme, a relatively little-known existing initiative that offers a tax break to adults who buy a bike through their employer. Bike-to-work is a valuable perk that is available only to a small minority of people whose employers choose to participate in the initiative. Cheaper children's bikes, on the other hand, offer universal benefit.

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