BUSINESS leaders in Oxfordshire welcomed Chancellor George Osborne’s Autumn Statement but there was a sting in the tail for those on benefits.

He scrapped the planned 3p a litre increase in fuel duty which was due to come in next month, unveiled a cut in corporation tax by one per cent to 21 per cent by 2014 and raised the rate before which people pay tax to £9,440.

But as he battled a predicted 0.1 per cent fall in economic growth this year, he slapped a three-year annual cap of one per cent on those on benefits including Jobseekers’ Allow-ance.

He also cut the tax-free allowance for wealthy pensioners from £50,000 a year to £40,000.

Mr Osborne, below, set out his stall by saying he wanted to create a culture where the Government “helped those who want to work hard.”

Bosses at family-run coach company and petrol retailer Worths Motors in Enstone reacted with “resigned relief” at news the 3p a litre rise in fuel prices had been axed.

Paul Worth, transport manager at the business which employs 20 drivers and staff, said: “It’s something. Market forces as much as taxes cause problems for small companies like us.

“It’s a cut-throat business these days with margins cut to the quick. Fuel is quite expensive enough already.”

Nigel Wild, president of the Oxfordshire Chamber of Commerce, said: “The fuel duty being dropped will make a difference as it goes down the line and we end up paying more for things like food which are transported by road.

“Squeezing benefits encourages people to work, which has got to be a good thing. But the bottom line is that we are still deep in the financial mire and it will take longer to dig ourselves out.”

Mr Wild also welcomed the announcement of £600m more spending on scientific research and development and the tenfold raising of tax relief on capital investment for machinery and equipment to £250,000.

The Chancellor also highlighted the expansion of high speed broadband to 12 cities including Oxford as revealed in the Oxford Mail yesterday.

Mr Osborne highlighted the increasing role of Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) in future development projects such as transport.

Ian Wenman, vice-chairman of the Oxfordshire LEP, said: “There will be more local decision making and more money which we have to ensure we spend wisely.

“It is a difficult job but Oxfordshire will remain resilient.”


Predicted fall in economic growth of 0.1 per cent

Planned 3p a litre fuel tax increase scrapped

Child benefit to rise by one per cent for two years from 2014

Pension relief tax relief cut from £50,000 a year to £40,000

40 per cent rate of income tax to rise by one per cent in 2014 and 2015

Corporation tax to be cut by one per cent to 21 per cent from April 2014.

Inheritance tax threshold to be increased by one per cent next year

ISA contribution limit to rise to £11,520 from next April

Ultra-fast broadband to expand to 12 cities including Oxford

£600m for scientific research