THE Government's decision to relieve air ambulances from the burden of fuel duty has been welcomed by the charity in the region.

The Great North Air Ambulance Service (GNAAS), which operates three aircraft across the North-East, North Yorkshire and Cumbria, said the announcement would help save lives.

As part of today’s budget, Chancellor George Osborne announced that air ambulance fuel would no longer be subject to VAT.

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It follows a long campaign by supporters of air ambulances across the country.

Mandy Drake, head of fundraising at GNAAS, said: “We estimate that this move could save the charity up to £25,000 a year, enough to pay for ten missions.

"This is clearly a significant contribution and we are grateful to all those people who have worked hard to make this happen, especially the many thousands who signed the online petition which triggered the debate in the first place.

“This was an issue which garnered support across the political spectrum and parliament deserves recognition for acting on the concerns of members of the public.

“However, the hard work doesn’t stop here. This service alone costs £4m a year to run so our attentions must now turn to reaching our fundraising goal for 2014.”