PUBS, breweries and theatres in Oxfordshire have welcomed the tax relief offered by the Chancellor in yesterday's Budget, though some dismissed the help as simply a 'gesture'.

Rishi Sunak announced a new 50 per cent business rate discount in the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors.

Cultural institutions welcomed the doubling of tax relief for museums, galleries, theatres and orchestras. They also welcomed £850m in post-pandemic support for culture and heritage institutions, and £14m a year in scale-up funding for creative small to medium-sized enterprises.

Louise Chantal, joint director and CEO of the Oxford Playhouse said: “Both the rates discount and the doubling of theatre tax relief is a hugely valued and appreciated. It will help the whole theatre industry return to functionality. The problem we have had as an industry is the risk and expenditure involved in producing theatre.

“We have had some record-breaking sales over the past few weeks and audiences are coming back and telling us that they are feeling safe, which is wonderful. But what this does is allow touring producers to take the risk to put on shows.”

Mr Sunak also announced radical changes for alcohol duty in his speech, in what he called the biggest changes for 140 years.

The cost of a pint will be cut by 3p, though red wine drinkers could see a price rise.

He said: “Our new system will be designed around a common-sense principle: the stronger the drink, the higher the rate. This means that some drinks, like stronger red wines, fortified wines, or high-strength ‘white ciders’ will see a small increase in their rates because they are currently under-taxed given their strength.”

He said many lower alcohol drinks were currently over-taxed, adding: “Rosé, fruit ciders, liqueurs, lower strength beers and wines – today’s changes mean they will pay less.”

The Chancellor also announced proposals for a new 'small producer relief' to include small cider makers and those making alcoholic drinks of less than 8.5 per cent alcohol by volume (ABV).

Matt Ford, retail and tap room manager at Loose Cannon brewery in Abingdon, said the changes would not be enough in the long term. He said: “On the surface it looks great, but it is actually going to suit the bigger boys rather than the smaller boys. That is looking at it without my rose-tinted specs on.”

Dave Richardson from the Oxford branch of the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) said: “It will only save a few pence on the price of beers. It is a gesture, it does nothing to address the huge disparity in prices between supermarkets and pubs.”

He added: “It is a welcome step in the right direction though. Anything that encourages people into pubs is good at the moment because it has been a rough 18 months.”

Education funding will return to 2010 levels in an increase worth £1,500 a pupil. The Government will also be tripling investment to create 30,000 special school places.

Libraries will also be renovated and restored.

The Chancellor announced investment for 'London-style' transport with £21bn invested in roads and £46bn on railways to improve journey times between cities.

The planned increase in fuel duty will be cancelled and the National Living Wage will increase from £8.91 to £9.50 an hour from April.

However there was criticism of the amount of help for those hardest hit by the pandemic.

Layla Moran, MP for Oxford West and Abingdon, said: “The Conservatives’ Budget is not a fair deal for Oxfordshire. It fails to properly invest in our children and their futures. It cuts taxes for domestic flights instead of funding green transport in our county such as an electric East West Rail. And it lets down the poorest households by giving with one hand, but taking away with the other through tax hikes and benefits cuts."