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  1. OBR downgrades UK growth forecasts
  2. Sugar tax on soft drinks to be introduced
  3. Fuel and beer duties frozen
  4. New rail lines including Crossrail 2 and HS3 get green light
  5. US Federal Reserve holds interest rates

Live Reporting

By Russell Hotten and Chris Johnston

All times stated are UK

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Will tax changes in the Autumn and Scottish Budgets leave you better or worse off in 2018/19?

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That's all from us on a very busy Budget Live Page. We'll be back tomorrow from 6am, when we expect a lot more Budget reaction and chancellor George Osborne's traditional next-day interviews on the BBC.


Away from the Budget... S&P 500 closes at highest level this year

The S&P 500 rose to its highest level in 2016 after the US Federal Reserve held interest rates steady and signaled fewer rate hikes this year. 

The index gained 11.29 points, or 0.56%, to 2,027.22. The Dow Jones was also up - adding 74.23 points to 17,325.76 - and the Nasdaq rose 35.30 points to 4,763.97.

Wine to go up... by 4p

Tray of glasses of red wine

How much is your average bottle of wine - £5, £15, £3.50? Whatever it is, you might need to recalibrate with wine going up by a whopping 4p on average. The Budget is raising duty on most wines (and sparkling cider) in line with inflation from Monday 21 March. 

The increase comes despite duty on beer, whisky and cigars being frozen, points out the BBC's Paul Rowley.  

Duty on cigarettes will rise more, going up by 2% above inflation. It means that from tonight a packet of 20 cigarettes rises by 20p, while a 30 gram packet of hand-rolling tobacco will cost 44p more, our correspondent calculates.

Coca Cola UK boss: 'disappointing' that soft drinks singled out

Coca Cola cans on a shelf

"We understand obesity is an issue that needs to be addressed and will continue our work to reduce the sugar and calories consumed from our drinks. We have already done a great deal and our actions are doing more to reduce sugar and calorie intake than a tax will. It's disappointing that the Government has chosen to single out soft drinks in its attempt to tackle the problem. If the aim is to reduce obesity, this levy flies in the face of evidence from around the world which shows taxes do very little, if anything, to reduce sugar and calorie intake or obesity levels but do add to people's cost of living."

Jon WoodsGeneral manager, Coca-Cola Great Britain & Ireland
Reeta Chakrabarti has been gauging reaction to all of the Budget's measures in Greater Manchester
An increase in the limit for ISA savings to £20,000 pounds a year, and 600,000 small firms not having to pay business rates were some of the announcements in the Budget.
Economics correspondent Andy Verity has been looking at the budget numbers
Latest forecasts for growth are down and George Osborne says Britain faces a turbulent global economic environment

Sugar tax shown to be 'regressive', says IEA

Sugar content in a can of Coca Cola

Kate Andrews, of the Institute of Economic Affairs, says experience in other countries has shown "a sugar tax is incredibly regressive". 

She tells the BBC: "It's disproportionately going to affect the people at the bottom, people who are poor on low incomes."

In Mexico, where a "soda tax" was brought in two years ago, sugar consumption is down between 6% and 12%. Meanwhile, Finland's 7.3% tax rise on sugar led to only a 1% drop in sugar consumption in the first year, she said.

"People were still buying sugary drinks, but they were paying more for them. That is unfair for people at the bottom," she said. 

Yellen warns about global economy

US Federal Reserve chairwoman Janet Yellen is giving a press conference following the decision to hold interest rates. 

She says: "Since the turn of the year, concerns about global economic prospects have led to increased financial market volatility and somewhat tighter financial conditions in the US, although financial conditions have improved notably more recently.

"In addition, economic growth abroad appears to be running at a somewhat softer pace than previously expected. These unanticipated developments, however, have not resulted in material changes to the Committee's baseline outlook."


Howard Mustoe

Business reporter

Slower economic growth has meant Chancellor George Osborne has rethought how he will meet his target to spend less money than he brings in by 2020.

Read more

Osborne's 'gamble isn't paying off', says TUC

TUC General Secretary Frances O'Grady

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady has given her thoughts on the Budget: 

The chancellor’s speech shows his gamble isn’t paying off. Far from increasing growth, he’s had to downgrade his forecasts and accept that his plan is failing on productivity and pay. Real earnings next year are set to grow even more slowly than he’d previously announced. And he’s had to admit that overall government debt is up too."

Frances O'GradyTUC general secretary

US Federal Reserve sees 'risks' to the global economy

Away from the UK Budget for a moment... The US central bank says the economy will continue to grow and the jobs market strengthen, but that "global economic and financial developments continue to pose risks" and will keep inflation low for the remainder of 2016.

Federal Reserve chairwoman Janet Yellen will expand on the health of the US economy at a press conference later.

Sugar tax to cost government £1bn

Business correspondent Jonty Bloom reports:

The OBR says that the new sugar levy will raise £500 million a year over the last three years of the forecast. Because it will push up the rate of inflation, gilt rates will therefore cost the government a one-off £1bn in 2018/19 in higher accrued interest on index-linked bonds.     

Away from the Budget... US Federal Reserve holds interest rates

Janet Yellen

The Federal Reserve has held interest rates steady, but indicated that moderate US economic growth and "strong job gains" would allow it to resume tightening monetary policy this year.

The US central bank, however, noted that the US continues to face risks from an uncertain global economy even as fresh projections from policymakers showed they expected two quarter-point rate hikes by the year's end.

"A range of recent indicators, including strong job gains, points to additional strengthening of the labor market. Inflation picked up in recent months," the Fed said in a policy statement in which it kept the target range for its overnight lending rate at 0.25% to 0.50%. 

Fed chairwoman Janet Yellen is due to hold a news conference later.

Kamal Ahmed on Snapchat

Technology correspondent Rory Cellan-Jones tweets:

View more on twitter

Vote Leave verdict on the Budget

Vote Leave chief executive Matthew Elliott comments on today's Budget:

There is one Budget the Chancellor didn't touch today - the £350 million of taxpayers' money he hands to Brussels every week. Nor could he cut taxes like VAT which we've given up control of to the EU Commission. Disappointingly, the Chancellor sought to politicise the OBR and drag it into his campaign to keep us in the EU despite the OBR making clear that it was not making a judgment about the referendum. If we want to take back control of our economy and our democracy so the Government can spend our money on our priorities, the only safe option is to vote Leave."

Budget: the reaction

How are the nation's political commentators taking the budget, at this very early stage?

The Daily Telegraph's Janet Daley says there was one clear message in the budget from the Chancellor "I am the man to lead the country to a successful future by keeping us within the European Union and maintaining the Union with Scotland." But she doubts that "it will do much" for the Chancellor's leadership ambitions, or the case to stay in the EU.

In The Guardian,Gaby Hinsliff asks readers to forget the announcements on sugary drinks, or small business, and says the bit of the budget that mattered most was "the doom-laden stuff at the beginning about how the world economy may be about to go horribly wrong". She says the Chancellor is "unlikely to survive" a second recession in his job and he "sounded like a man outlining his legacy".

The Spectator's Isabel Hardman calls the budget "strikingly cautious", aside from the announcement of a levy on soft drinks manufacturers. George Osborne is "clearly not keen for any sort of fight with his backbenchers at all", she says.

And in The Mirror columnist Ros Wynne-Jones says that the Chancellor is forcing the disabled and the poor to pay for a "largesse" of tax cuts for the rich. She says they are "the people who always pay for Tory budgets".

'Economic skies are darkening' - Plaid MP

Budget debate

House of Commons


Jonathan Edwards

Plaid Cymru's Jonathan Edwards says "the economic skies are darkening", and adds we are facing "another obvious bubble in house prices" and warns that productivity is too low. He calls for increases in infrastructure spending.

He argues that the government has failed to rebalance the economy, and accuses the Treasury of treating Wales "like a fiscal second class nation".

'Breathtaking hypocrisy' on support for disabled people

Green Party MP, Caroline Lucas tweets...

Breathtaking hypocrisy from Chancellor - talks about support for disabled people having slashed disability benefits #ESA #budget2016

Spending cuts 'the real Budget takeaways': EY Item Club

The net effect of the Chancellor’s tax changes in GDP terms - excluding a major, but revenue-neutral, shifting of corporation tax payments - amounts to little more than a rounding error by the end of the decade. The real ‘takeaways’ of the Budget come via spending cuts. Another £3.5bn is taken off departmental spending in 2019-20 and public service pension contributions are set to increase due to a cut in the discount rate used to calculate payments. In addition, the Chancellor has brought forward capital spending from 2019-20, flattering borrowing in his target year for a budget surplus.”

Martin BeckSenior economic adviser, EY Item Club

Sugar tax to be UK-wide

Health editor Hugh Pym tweets:

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Laura Kuenssberg's Budget analysis

BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg examines the "chunky downgrades to growth" revealed in George Osborne's Budget.

Laura Kuenssberg examines the announcements in George Osborne's Budget speech.

Osborne's Budget speech: the statistics

The Chancellor's full speech clocked in at 9,223 words and took one hour and three minutes to deliver.

There were 18 mentions of the "next generation", 18 references to the "long term", 18 to "infrastructure", 12 mentions of "children", eight of "small business", six references to the "Northern Powerhouse", six mentions of the "EU" or "European Union" and four references to "young people".

And what of the favourite buzz-phrase of the last election, the one repeated with iron discipline on the campaign trail by Conservatives from the prime minister downwards? 

Well don't worry, the "long term economic plan" lives on, and was invoked four times by the Chancellor in the course of the hour.

Clapham High St

Simon Jack

Business editor

Small businesses are the clear winners from Chancellor George Osborne's eighth Budget.

Read more

Budget 'failed to tackle poverty'

Julia Unwin, chief executive of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, said the Chancellor did little to address the risk that poverty presents for the economy.

"The extra support he offered – tax cuts and savings help for better-off workers and extra support for business – will bypass those in work but living in poverty," she said.

“With the economy recovering, this was the ideal time to set out a long-term plan to help those on the lowest incomes and ensure they share in on the UK’s prosperity. Instead, lack of security and risk of poverty remains the reality for millions of people on low incomes.”

McDonnell: Chancellor 'never delivers'

John McDonnell

Shadow chancellor John McDonnell welcomed George Osborne's infrastructure announcements, such as investments in rail, but said the Chancellor would not have the commitment to see them through.

"Time and time again he has come to the House to announce new infrastructure initiatives... but he's not delivered. Every time he sets himself a target he fails. His delivery record is so poor that people are sceptical," Mr McDonnell said.

Ahmed: Osborne breaks the rules

Kamal Ahmed

Economics editor

George Osborne set himself three fiscal rules: to cap welfare spending, to bring down debt as a proportion of national income and to produce a surplus by the end of the Parliament.

The welfare cap was breached when the government was forced into a U-turn on cuts to tax credits last year.

Today, the rule on reducing debt has also been broken.

Read more from Kamal here.

Changes to income tax rates

One of the Chancellor's more notable announcements was on income tax. 

From April 2017, the rate at which workers start paying top rate tax will be raised from £42,385 to £45,000, with the tax-free personal allowance raised to £11,500. 

Here's how the breakdown will look when it comes into effect:

Graphic showing the income tax rates that will come into effect in April 2017

Deloitte's Budget highlights

Niki Dixon and Nigel Barker, tax specialists at Deloitte, have been analysing the Budget for the BBC. 

New Lifetime ISA: Aimedat the under 40s, this provides a completely new savings vehicle. Those under 40 will be able to save £4,000 and get a £1,000 annual contribution from the Government up to the age of 50. The account can be used to pay for the deposit on a first home or be drawn down after age 60. Withdrawals outside these limited circumstances would result in the claw back of the government bonus and a 5% penalty charge.  

Corporation tax: The reduction in the headline rate to 17% from 2020 gives the UK one of the lowest rates in the developed world and is expected to continue to attract business here.

Anti-avoidance push: Proposed changes in corporation tax including restrictions on the deduction of finance costs and other tax-raising measures are expected to generate an additional £8bn over the next five years. Overall the raft of measures in the Budget are expected to raise another £12bn of tax, so this remains an area of focus for HMRC. 

Government to breach welfare cap: OBR

BBC social affairs correspondent Michael Buchanan reports:

The Office for Budget Responsibility says the government is going to breach its own welfare cap in every remaining year of this Parliament. Forecasts by the OBR in November indicated that spending on benefits would be within the cap towards the end of the Parliament. However, its updated analysis today says spending will "exceed the permitted amount in every year, and by a larger margin than in November". 

The additional spending is mainly caused by more people than expected being eligible for disability benefits. The predicted increase comes despite changes to one disability benefit, Personal Independence Payment (PIP), announced last week. 

The tighter rules are expected to see 290,000 fewer people being eligible for PIP with a further 80,000 getting a lower award. The OBR estimate the measure will save £1.3bn in 2019/20 and 20/21. Despite the increased costs, by 2020/21, the percentage of GDP spend on welfare will be at its lowest level in 30 years, according to the OBR.  

A 'workmanlike Budget', says BCC

Business wanted a steady, workmanlike Budget, and that’s what we got. The Chancellor listened to our calls to avoid higher business taxes and costs – and indeed moved to lower them in a number of areas. He has finally taken real action to lessen the crushing burden of business rates, and sharpened incentives for entrepreneurship and investment. While his commitments to key business infrastructure projects are positive, the Chancellor must ensure that they move from the drawing board to speedy construction on the ground.”

Dr Adam MarshallActing director-general, British Chambers of Commerce

What does the Budget mean for you?

Getty Images

So what does the Budget mean for you? Personal finance reporter Kevin Peachey has the lowdown here.

Alcohol duty freeze welcomed

Getty Images

A duty freeze on beer, cider and spirits to support pubs and Scotland's whisky industry has been welcomed by the Wine and Spirit Trade Association.

Miles Beale, its chief executive, said 25 million spirits consumers would welcome the spirits duty freeze, but expressed disappointment that 30 million wine drinkers had been "singled out for a duty rise". 

"The freeze in wine duty in 2015 has resulted in £118m extra in revenue to the Treasury in the last 10 months, up 4%, which makes it very unfair that wine has been penalised," he said.

David Frost, Scotch Whisky Association chief executive, also hailed the freeze for duty on spirits but added: "Tax is still 76% of the price of an average bottle of Scotch and the majority of the British public think that is unfairly high."

'Bleak day for disabled people'

The charity for deafblind people, Sense tweets:

Sugar tax is 'political theatre'

The Food and Drink Federation is not at all happy with George Osborne's sugar tax, as you might imagine. Its director-general, Ian Wright, says:

Sugar cubes
Getty Images

We are extremely disappointed by today's announcement of a new tax on some of the UK's most successful and innovative companies. For nearly a year we have waited for an holistic strategy to tackle obesity. What we've got today instead is a piece of political theatre. The imposition of this tax will, sadly, result in less innovation and product reformulation, and for some manufacturers is certain to cost jobs. Nor will it make a difference to obesity."

Irn Bru maker responds to sugar tax

Irn Bru

Roger White, chief executive of Irn Bru maker A.G. Barr, comments on the Chancellor's new sugar tax: "It is extremely disappointing that soft drinks have been singled out given it is the only food and drink category to have made any real progress in reducing sugar intake in recent years, down 13.6 per cent since 2012. 

"We will await further details and ensure that we are fully involved in the consultation process to ensure our position, and progress to date, are well understood."

Budget 2016 in four key numbers

BBC Newsnight

BBC Newsnight presenter Evan Davis pulls out four key figures from George Osborne's budget

Deficit set to jump - OBR

The Treasury will benefit from lower interest debt spending, but the decline in economic growth will hit tax receipts, OBR chief Robert Chote says. 

Over the course of this parliament, the deficit will rise by £56bn over five years, which he says sounds like a huge number but only amounts to 0.5% of GDP.

Plenty more detail on the OBR's fiscal and economic outlook here.

Budget: what's of most interest to the public?

Google trends chart

What's been of most interest to the public? Here's a trends graph of Google searches so far. Pensions have been a hot topic, but the announcement of a tax on sugary drinks clearly had people thirsting for more information.