PEOPLE in Cumbria have welcomed the 2014 budget, announced this morning.
Charities, small businesses and members of the farming community have hailed the plans which Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, unveiled following days of speculation.
In the speech he revealed the government will waive VAT on fuel for air ambulance teams, which the Great North Air Ambulance Service (GNAAS) said will save it around £25,000 every year.
“This is clearly a significant contribution and we are grateful to all those people who have worked hard to make this happen,” said Mandy Drake, head of fundraising at GNAAS, who said the savings will pay for 10 missions.
“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.”
She explained thousands of people signed an online petition which triggered the debate.
The Federation of Small Businesses also welcomed the document, saying it was encouraged by improved growth forecasts and measures aimed at stimulating the economy.
Gary Lovatt, FSB Regional Chairman for Cumbria, said: “There are a number of measures announced which we believe will help the economy in Cumbria."
He said extending support to small businesses around employing apprentices will encourage more firms down this route, and the extension of tax credits for research and development will help to convince those businesses keen to invest in these areas that now is the time to fast-track these plans.
"Scrapping the fuel duty increase scheduled for September keeps businesses moving, and measures aimed at tackling energy bills have to be welcomed," he continued.
"Beer duty will be subject to a 1p in the pound cut, which whilst a small gesture, gives hope to independent pubs."
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Other items in the budget include plans to spend £200m fixing potholes, while a further £140m has also been allocated for flood defences.
Work on the roads was welcomed by rural insurer, NFU Mutual.
“Any measure to help reduce the burden of fuel costs for local businesses and improve the condition of the rural road network is welcome, particularly after the recent period of prolonged bad weather," said Nicki Whittaker, rural affairs specialist at the company.
Energy intensive businesses, such as Croppers in Burneside, are also set to benefit from measures announced to help firms who have switched to renewable sources of energy.
“This budget is good news for people throughout Cumbria,” said South Lakes MP, Tim Farron.
“For businesses like Croppers, I have pushed and pushed the government to look at how companies like them get hit by the amount of energy they use.
“Today’s announcement will hopefully make a massive difference to them.”
The Chancellor also announced changes to the way people take their pensions, by giving greater choice when it comes to accessing them.
Other highlights of the budget include plans to raise the basic rate tax allowance to £10,500 next year.
A fuel duty rise, planned for September, has been cancelled.
However, Furness MP, John Woodcock, said local people were 'fed up of politicians making grand announcements and boasts that make no difference to their lives'.
"The reality is that working people are on average £1,600 worse off as their stagnating wages fail to keep pace with rising prices, and our brilliant firms are succeeding in Furness despite the attitude of government ministers to our local economy, not because of it," he said.
"There is so much more to do to bring sustained prosperity back to Furness and end the travesty that is seeing an explosion in desperation and reliance on foodbanks."