Osborne’s bid to help firms and improve health and education

Chancellor George Osborne
Chancellor George Osborne
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Improving health and education, helping local businesses to grow and ensuring working families have more money in their pockets were the top priorities for the chancellor in his latest Budget.

It was a huge win for campaigners as a new sugar tax will be imposed on the drinks industry, which will come into force in two years’ time.

The cash will be used to pump £520m into sports in schools.

Schools themselves will be rewarded for increasing the number of hours students come to learn.

All must become an academy by 2020, which has divided opinion.

And it was good news for motorists as fuel duty was frozen. Duty on alcohol also saw a freeze, though campaigners had hoped for a reduction to help pubs survive.

Corporation tax will be slashed to 17 per cent by 2020 – and there was the promise of new elected mayors for regions as part of moves to bring down more powers to councils from the government. This will come as a boost to the Solent devolution deal expected to be announced this summer.

While George Osborne declared the British economy is growing faster than any other ‘major advanced country in the world’, more spending cuts totalling a staggering £3.5bn are to be rolled out.

MPs have welcomed the latest spending priorities.

Havant MP Alan Mak says: ‘This budget helps hardworking people, savers, drivers, businesses and children across Havant.

‘Income tax cuts benefit every working person, whilst business rates will be abolished for many local small businesses, strengthening our local economy.

‘Britain has the fastest-growing economy in the Western world, allowing this government to freeze fuel duty, cut taxes, spend more on local schools and help young people to save for the future.’

Portsmouth South MP Flick Drummond said: ‘I welcome the sugar tax, but I very much hope the revenue is put into educating people and, importantly, children to consume healthier food and drink and take part in sports activities.’

Portsmouth North MP Penny Mordaunt praised the ‘big win’ on business rates – saying it will be of huge benefit to small firms across the city.

Nationally the tax breaks will benefit 850,000 companies. She also said local healthcare professionals will welcome the sugar levy and the fact it will be spent on more sport in schools.

New forecasts from the Office for Budget Responsibility show the UK would have a budget surplus of £10.4bn in 2019/20 and £11bn the following year.

But it means Mr Osborne has missed his target of starting to cut the national debt as a percentage of output this financial year, according to the OBR.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said the recovery was ‘built on sand’ and the Budget announcement was the culmination of ‘six years of failures’.

BUSINESS leaders have welcomed moves to help small businesses grow.

Tim Forer, a partner in the employment team at Portsmouth law firm Blake Morgan, said: ‘There was quite a lot in this budget for small businesses, which will be welcomed - let’s not forget that they make up the bulk of the regional economy and that is where the growth tends to come from. Measures such as the cut in the headline rate of corporation tax from 20 per cent to 17 per cent by 2020, and the raising of the threshold for small business tax relief from £6,000 to a maximum of £15,000 will be advantageous to businesses here.’

VICTIMS of domestic abuse have been thrown a lifeline after local support units were awarded a cash boost.

A total of £190,000 has been set aside for anti- domestic abuse teams in the region – which will go some way towards plugging gaps in funding in the years ahead.

Portsmouth City Council plans to slash £130,000 from its support team next year. City MP Penny Mordaunt says the £190,000 has come from a pot of money made up from the controversial ‘tampon tax’ - a EU law which means the UK can’t stop charging VAT on sanitary products.

CAMPAIGNERS have welcomed plans to introduce a sugar tax to cut obesity levels.

It comes after figures showed 1,840 year six pupils across Portsmouth, Fareham, Gosport and Havant were fat, with the blame being put on companies promoting products high in fat and sugar. County education official Peter Edgar said he was extremely worried by the findings.

The tax is expected to raise £520m to double the amount of funding for sport in primary schools, with secondary schools encouraged to offer more sport as part of longer school days. Celebrity chef Jamie Oliver led the fight for the tax.

A PLEDGE to freeze the level of beer duty has been welcomed.

Mike Benner, managing director of Siba, the trade organisation for brewers, said: ‘It’s very good news for the UK’s independent craft brewers that the Chancellor has frozen beer duty. The end of the duty escalator and three cuts in beer duty since 2013 have helped to revitalise British beer and around 300 new craft breweries have opened since 2013 bringing thousands of new local beers for consumers to enjoy.’ But Tim Page, of the Campaign for Real Ale, said: ‘A freeze in beer tax is an opportunity missed to back the continued revival of brewing.’