Chancellor’s glass half full as economic growth slumps and beer duty is cut

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Beer will be 1p a pint cheaper from Sunday and a planned rise in petrol duty is scrapped under measures announced in chancellor George Osborne’s budget.

Mr Osborne announced changes to alcohol and fuel duty as he admitted the UK’s economic growth target has been slashed.

The economy is now forecast to grow by 0.6 per cent this year, less than the 1.2 per cent predicted by the government’s Office for Budget Responsibility.

The chancellor said the economy recovery was taking “longer than everyone hoped”.

He scrapped a fuel duty rise set to come into force in September, saying petrol was 13p a litre cheaper because of government measures to control prices over the last two years.

A 3p rise in beer duty was cancelled, and the price of a pint cut by 1p.

Mr Osborne also cut Corporation Tax to 20 per cent from 2015. He said: “I want to send a message to anyone who wants to invest and create jobs here that Britain is open for business.”

There was help for people buying homes with the announcement of a £130bn mortgage guarantee scheme and £3.5bn to provide shared equity loans.

Tax-free childcare vouchers worth £1,200 were also introduced for families.

But a public sector pay freeze was extended, with workers facing a below-inflation 1 per cent rise in 2015, along with extra curbs on the progression of salaries.

And there were no changes to cuts to benefits, including a controversial “bedroom tax” on spare rooms which is expected to hit more than 5,000 Wakefield households from next month.

Government departments, already forced to make huge savings by the chancellor, will also see a further one per cent reduction in funding, although schools and the NHS are protected.