Budget aid for pubs ‘not enough’

George Osborne
George Osborne
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A Havant landlady today welcomed the Chancellor cutting the price of the beer – but said his measures did not go far enough to save our struggling pubs.

George Osborne scrapped controversial price hikes for beer and fuel in his fourth budget speech.

Among a package of measures aimed at helping struggling families, pubs and businesses, the planned 3p beer duty tax was scrapped and a further penny will slashed from the price of a pint of beer from Sunday night.

Angie Mellow, landlady of The Wheelwright Arms, in Emsworth Road, Havant, said: ‘I think it’s brilliant that it is not going up.

‘But I don’t think 1p is going to make a lot of difference to anyone.

‘With the rate of inflation going up, I don’t think 1p is going to save our pubs.

‘He should have actually done more.’

Regarding the penny off the pint, Mr Osborne said: ‘Responsible drinkers should not pay the price for the problems caused by others.

‘The sad fact is we have lost over 10,000 pubs in the last decade.’

A planned rise in fuel duty in September will be scrapped.

He said petrol will be 13p a litre cheaper than if he had not frozen the duty over the last two years – the equivalent to around £7 less every time someone fills up the average Ford Focus or Vauxhall Astra.

Motorist Lulu Bowerman, 54, from Emsworth, covers about 300 miles a week and welcomed the freeze.

The mum-of-one, who works at Chichester College, said: ‘I am delighted.

‘As a business user, you get petrol back but it’s only 45p. It doesn’t really touch the sides.

‘This has got to be a good thing. Everybody is spending so much of their disposable income now just to get work and pick the kids up from school.’

Speaking at a rowdy House of Commons in which the deputy speaker was forced to intervene repeatedly, George Osborne delivered his Budget aimed at ‘people who aspire to work and get on’.

Mr Osborne also announced help for 24m workers across the country by raising the personal income tax allowance to £10,000 by April next year.

This is the equivalent of around £700 less in tax for working families, he said.

The measure will bring around 2m out of paying tax.

Mr Osborne announced measures to kickstart the country’s building industry and help people get on the property ladder by announcing the ‘Help to Buy’ scheme.

He will help people get on or move up the property ladder by offering government ‘mortgage guarantees’ worth £130 billion in total. This will mean people can afford bigger mortgages with a small deposit.

In a separate part of the initiative, the government will offer interest-free loans for five years if people want to buy new-build homes. The loans will be worth up to 20 per cent of the value of a newly-built homes, with the buyer contributing five per cent as a deposit.

Estate agents in Portsmouth told The News that they welcomed the measures and it could finally help boost the property market in Portsmouth, which has traditionally been sluggish over the last few years as there are not as many new-builds as some other cities.

For families with children, there will be incentives to get parents back to work, with child care vouchers of up to £1,200 for each child.

To help small businesses and start-up enterprises, corporation tax will be reduced to 20 per cent from April 2015. It currently stands at 28 per cent.

A new employment allowance will mean a £2,000 cut for employers having to make National Insurance contributions.

Businesses had a mixed response to the budget.

Ian Lockwood, commercial director at Taylor Made Computer Solutions in Fareham, said: ‘There wasn’t a lot for the UK’s technology sector in this budget, which is perhaps surprising given its strength and growth potential.

‘As a business we obviously welcome the cut in Corporation Tax to 20 per cent, which should make the UK an attractive place from which to operate.

‘The National Insurance will also certainly help and spur employers to take on new staff, something we’ve done a lot of in recent years and are looking to continue to do in the future.

‘Although we strive to make our fleet of more than 50 vehicles as fuel efficient as possible, the cancelling of the planned fuel duty increase will nevertheless make a welcome difference to our running costs in the months to come.

‘While it was good to hear progress on tackling the nation’s deficit, we would have liked to hear more incentives to roll out high speed broadband, which is clearly an enabling technology that will help businesses become more effective and competitive.’

Simon Court, head of corporate tax at Blake Lapthorn law firm in Portsmouth, said: ‘The tax burden on businesses will be eased by a reduction in corporation tax to 20 per cent, and the first £2,000 of their employer’s National Insurance bill being taken off.

‘I think it will be welcomed by businesses and it does mean the UK will have one of the lowest rates of corporation tax in the developed world and that really is saying something.

‘But, as always, the devil is in the detail, so we need to examine the small print to see if behind the speech there are any nasty surprises.’

Meanwhile, public spending budgets for the health service and schools have been ringfenced, but there will be departmental cuts of one per cent – designed to give the government £11.5bn worth of savings.

Local government and police are exempt from this as their spending deal has already been decided.

The public sector pay cap of one per cent will be extended by one year in 2015/16. Progressive pay increases for some parts of the public sector will also be frozen.

However, people serving in the armed forces can expect a 1.5 per cent pay rise to recognise the ‘sacrifice’ they make for the country, Mr Osborne said.

To help pensioners, the flat rate pension of £144 a week has been brought forward to 2016.

But the Chancellor slashed the official growth forecast in half today as he admitted the recovery was taking ‘longer than anyone hoped’.

He said the economy would grow by just 0.6 per cent this year – down from the previous forecast of 1.2 per cent - and would be slower than forecast next year at 1.8 per cent compared to the two per cent forecast at the time of the Autumn Statement.

He said: ‘Today, I’m going to level with people about the difficult economic circumstances we still face and the hard decisions required to deal with them.’

In a prebudget blow to the Chancellor, figures released this morning show unemployment has increased for the first time in a year.

The jobless total jumped by 7,000 to 2.52m, ending a run of reductions, with all the increase caused by more 18 to 24-year-olds becoming unemployed.

The total is still 152,000 lower than a year ago, while the number of people claiming jobseeker’s allowance fell in February by 1,500 to 1.54m, the fourth consecutive monthly reduction.

In the South East, there are now 299,000 people unemployed – up by 16,000.

This stands at 6.6 per cent of the working population.