The Chancellor’s autumn statement, which included a pledge to small retailers to offer them a £1,000 business rates cut, has prompted mixed reactions in North Devon.
George Osborne also announced freezes to fuel duty, cuts to job taxes for the young and a prediction for GDP growth of 1.4% this year and 2.4% next year.
The Chancellor said Britain was “growing faster than any other major economy.”
North Devon MP Nick Harvey said he hoped some of the Chancellor’s announcements set out a solid foundation for growth.
He said: “I was pleased to see practical measures to support small businesses and the high street as they turn the corner after the economic turmoil of the last few years.
“Getting small businesses and independent traders in North Devon’s towns back on track is vital.”
Mr Harvey said some of what was in the statement would be benefit North Devon residents, welcoming the fuel duty freeze and abolishment of National Insurance contributions for under 21-year-olds.
But the Liberal Democrat criticised the Government’s new policy of giving free school meals to all children regardless of family income.
He said: “Under the new policy, 1.3m families who can afford to pay for school meals are effectively being subsidised and I have made it quite clear that this is the wrong priority when 1.2m children of all ages living in poverty already miss out.”
“This is a problem that really affects North Devon – where 47% of poor children are considered ineligible for free school meals – and I will continue to press the Government on what I see as a misdirection of money.”
North Devon Conservative parliamentary candidate Peter Heaton-Jones said Conservative policies were delivering economic growth for the UK that were feeding through to North Devon.
He said: “Unemployment is down, the deficit is down, interest rates are low - all delivered because of David Cameron and George Osborne's careful stewardship of the economy.
“This means people in North Devon are benefiting as jobs are created, mortgages remain affordable and the local economy recovers.
“Energy bills will be reduced by an average £50, the married couples tax allowance is extended, fuel duty will continue to be frozen - all measures which will help hardworking families in North Devon.”
North Devon Plus Commercial Director Robin Makeig-Jones said: “ The £1,000 business rates cut is welcome news and the fuel duty freeze will no doubt be welcomed by everyone.
“Interesting they’re putting more money into apprenticeships but they’re ignoring the business support side.
“They’re not showing businesses what the benefits of offering apprenticeships are or offering them any support.”
Mr Makeig-Jones said people should be wary of the business start-up loans the Government was offering, adding: “These are high interest, personal loans and people should be careful.”
Bill Hockin, who runs William C Hockin Transport in Barnstaple, was pleased to hear next year’s planned 2p increase in fuel duty would be scrapped.
He said he spent millions on fuel every year and would save thousands of pounds.
Mr Hockin, who is also on the board of directors for the Road Haulage Association, had a meeting with Danny Alexander, chief secretary to the Treasury prior to the last budget.
Mr Hockin said: “As the Road Haulage Association believe we helped make this happen.
“We had the opportunity to talk to Danny Alexander and fuel duty was an important part.
“It is fantastic news but we don’t just want this waived- we want a reduction.
Mr Hockin said his company spent roughly £3m a year on fuel and scrapping the 2p fuel duty increase would mean a £24,000 saving.
He said: “This is a massive thing to get the economy back on the road.
“This isn’t a bonus- this is something we need.”