Budget 2014: Chancellor George Osborne announces first enterprise zone for Northern Ireland
Headline figures: Personal tax allowance up to £10,500; Fuel duty rise cancelled, Beer duty cut by 1p a pint
George Osborne has announced in his 2014 Budget that Northern Ireland's first enterprise zone will be established near Coleraine.
The Chancellor revealed the news as he told the House of Commons on Wednesday afternoon that business rate discounts and enhanced capital allowances in enterprise zones would be extended for three more years.
Enterprise Zones are areas around the country that support new and expanding businesses by offering incentives, such as rates relief and simplified planning procedures. There are currently 24 across England.
The Northern Ireland Independent Retail Trade Association (NIIRTA) has welcomed the announcement, adding that it would like the enterprise zone to include the North West as a whole, "including Derry/Londonderry and Strabane to build upon the legacy of the City of Culture".
George Osborne hailed the success of the coalition's austerity plan as he delivered his fifth Budget today - insisting the Government will be back in the black by 2018.
He said the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) was now predicting a 0.2% surplus in 2018/19, meaning that he could deliver boosts to hardworking families and savers.
But he stressed that he would not loosen the purse strings despite economic growth being revised up, and the Government would keep ""putting Britain right".
"I can report today that the economy is continuing to recover - and recovering faster than forecast," Mr Osborne told MPs.
"We set out our plan. And together with the British people, we held our nerve. We're putting Britain right.
"But the job is far from done. Our country still borrows too much. We still don't invest enough, export enough or save enough.
"So today we do more to put that right. This is a Budget for building a resilient economy.
"If you're a maker, a doer or a saver, this Budget is for you."
2014 Budget measures at a glance
:: Personal tax allowance to be raised to £10,500 next year; £800 average savings
:: Higher rate threshold for 40p income tax to rise from £41,450 to £41,865 next month and then by further 1% to £42,285 next year
:: Transferable tax allowance for married couples to rise to £1,050
:: 15% stamp duty on homes worth more than £500,000 bought through companies
:: Inheritance tax waived for emergency services personnel who "give their lives protecting us"
:: VAT waived on fuel for air ambulances and inshore rescue boats
:: Fuel duty rise planned for September cancelled
PENSIONS AND SAVINGS
:: All tax restrictions on pensioners' access to pension pots removed and tax on cash removed on retirement cut from 55% to 20%
:: Reform of taxation of defined contribution pensions to help 13 million people from March 27
::: Abolition of 10p starting rate of tax on income from savings
:: GDP growth forecast to be 2.7% this year, then 2.3%, 2.6%, 2.6% and 2.5% in following years - making UK economy £16 billion bigger than predicted.
:: Deficit revised down to 6.6% this year, and forecast to fall in following years before going into surplus of 0.2% in 2018/19
:: Borrowing expected to be £108 billion this year - £12 billion less than forecast
:: Debt revised down to 74.5% of GDP this year; then predicted to peak at 78.7% in 2015/16 and fall to 74.2% by 2018
:: OBR forecasts 1.5 million more jobs over the next five years and earnings to grow faster than inflation
:: Welfare cap set at £119 billion for 2015/16, rising to £127 billion by 2018/19, only state pension and cyclical unemployment benefits excluded
:: £7 billion package to cut energy bills includes £18 per ton cap on carbon price support, saving medium-sized manufacturers £50,000 and families £15 a year
:: Compensation scheme for energy intensive industries extended four years to 2019/20; £1 billion to protect manufacturers from cost of green levies
:: Tobacco duty to rise by 2% above inflation
:: Alcohol duty escalator scrapped
:: Duty on spirits and ordinary cider frozen. Beer duty cut by 1p a pint
:: Duty on fixed-odds betting terminals increased to 25%
:: Bingo duty halved to 10%.
:: 20% tax relief for theatre productions
:: £270 million guarantee approved for the Mersey Gateway bridge.
:: Support to build 200,000 homes.
:: Additional £140 million made available for repairs and maintenance to flood defences
:: Business rate discounts and enhanced capital allowances in enterprise zones extended for three more years
:: Research and development tax credit for loss-making small businesses raised from 11% to 14.5%
:: Annual investment allowance doubled to £500,000 and extended to the end of 2015
Mr Osborne added: "It is all part of a long-term economic plan - a plan that is delivering security for the people of this country.
"In 2018/19 we won't be borrowing at all. We will have a small surplus of almost £5 billion.
"Taken together, these new figures mean Britain will be borrowing £24 billion less than was forecast. That's more than we spend in an entire year on the police and criminal justice system."
Mr Osborne warned that cuts would continue, with a cap on welfare bills including housing benefit and tax credits.
Only the State Pension and the cyclical unemployment benefits will be excluded.
The move lays down the gauntlet to Labour to match the figure.
Mr Osborne said the cap would be set it at £119 billion in 2015/16. It will rise, but only in line with forecast inflation, to £127 billion in 2018/19.
The Chancellor told MPs: "None of these decisions are easy, but they are the right thing to ensure Britain lives within her means."
He added: "Britain should always be proud of having a welfare system that helps those most in need.
"But never again should we allow its costs to spiral out of control and its incentives to become so distorted that it pays not to work."
NIIRTA Chief Executive Glyn Roberts gave his reaction on behalf of Northern Ireland's retailers: "Our members will welcome that the proposed fuel duty rise is to be scrapped and that 89,000 people being lifted out of paying income tax will hopefully mean more spending with local retailers.
"With many retailers investing in their businesses again the Annual Investment Allowance being doubled to £500,000 until the end of 2015 will provide them with much needed support."
But Labour leader Ed Miliband responded: "The Chancellor spoke for nearly an hour but he did not mention one central fact: the working people of Britain are worse off under the Tories."
Penny off a pint of beer
The Chancellor was said to be the toast of brewers, pubs and drinkers after announcing a 1p cut in the price of a pint for the second year running.
The industry said the move will protect 7,000 jobs, mainly of younger people working in pubs and bars.
Brigid Simmonds, chief executive of the British Beer and Pub Association, said: "This is fantastic news, and George Osborne is again the toast of Britain's brewers, pubs and pubgoers.
"It also shows that the Government has understood our case, that taxes on British beer had become far too high, and action was long overdue.
"I hope this becomes a trend in future budgets for this British-made, lower-strength drink.
Mike Benner, chief executive of the Campaign for Real Ale (Camra), said: "Camra is delighted to see the Chancellor implementing an unprecedented second consecutive cut of 1p in beer duty. This is not only about keeping the price of a pint affordable in British pubs but helping an industry which has been in overall decline continue on its long road to recovery.
"Camra cares greatly about the future of the great British pub and it is clear from this Budget announcement that the Government do too.
"Keeping the price of a pint affordable is vital for the long-term health of the pub sector and Camra would hope this latest vote of confidence in British pubs will go some way to slowing the rate of closures, by encouraging more people to make use of their local this summer.
"No doubt many of our 160,000 members will be raising a glass to the Chancellor this evening to toast another brilliant Budget for British beer drinkers."
Tobacco duty 'a missed opportunity'
The Chancellor has missed an opportunity to end the "ridiculous" situation of a pack of cigarettes costing less in real terms than it did in the 1960s, health campaigners have said.
Tobacco duty will rise by 2% above inflation, and the escalator will be extended for the rest of the next Parliament.
British Lung Foundation chief executive Dr Penny Woods said: "By not heeding the recommendations of health experts to increase tobacco taxation by 5% above inflation, the Chancellor has missed a great opportunity to help put an end to this ridiculous situation in which a pack of cigarettes today costs less in real terms than it did in the 1960s.
"This Government has made encouraging moves on issues such as standardised packaging and smoking in cars carrying children to try and cut the impact smoking has on the nation's health.
"However, with research showing taxes to be one of the most effective tools in encouraging people to quit smoking, medical professionals and health campaigners around the country will be disappointed with the Chancellor's decision not to use this tool to the extent so many of them have called for.
"A 5% real terms increase in tobacco taxation may only have increased the cost of a pack of cigarettes by a few pence, but the evidence suggests it could have saved thousands of lives into the future."
The Tobacco Retailers' Alliance (TRA) said the 2% increase played into the hands of tobacco smugglers.
TRA spokeswoman Debbie Corris said: "With the Chancellor's announcement, smugglers will now make even more profit, encouraging more of them to ply their illegal trade in communities across the UK, selling to customers no matter what their age.
"This in turn will mean lost sales for legitimate retailers like myself."
Belfast Telegraph Digital