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The Budget: what to expect

Chancellor George Osborne outside 11 Downing Street before heading to the House of Commons to deliver his annual Budget statement. Photo: Jeff Moore/Jeff Moore/Empics Entertainment

Our political correspondent Bob Constantine looks ahead to the budget and makes some predictions about what to expect in the West Country.

For those expecting dramatic news in the budget, I would say - you're likely to be disappointed. Eye-catching announcements - the ones that make a real difference to your cost of living - will probably have to wait till the autumn statement, or next year's budget, which will be just before the General Election.

The theme for now will be one of continuing to bear down on the public finances, just in case anyone's tempted to think that recent economic good news means it's safe to vote Labour again. The words "long term economic plan" will feature more than once, and be repeated ad nauseam by loyal backbenchers.

Some reports talk of an extra £140 million to improve flood defences. Credit: ITV News West Country

One item of interest to the West Country will be what the Chancellor has to say about the recent floods and storms. Some reports talk of an extra £140 million to improve flood defences, and the region would expect to get a fair proportion of that for projects like the Bridgwater tidal barrage.

In addition, there may be confirmation that some road or rail projects can now go ahead, but these are likely to be "re-announcements" rather than anything genuinely new.

George Osborne is under pressure once again to lower the cost of fuel, by 3p a litre, which is important for motorists everywhere but particularly in remoter parts of the West Country. However after several recent concessions in this area, this is one cut that may have to wait.

George Osborne is under pressure to lower the cost of fuel Credit: Nick Ansell/PA Wire/Press Association Images

He gained big headlines a year ago for knocking a penny off the price of beer - that's helping our regional breweries and pubs - and he may do something similar this time to deflect from other, less popular measures. But the Chancellor is, it seems, reluctant to raise the threshold for the 40p rate of income tax, which is now catching many middle-income earners, though promised increases at the lower end do of course benefit everyone, especially the low-paid. Extra help with childcare has just been announced. And we also know there will be an extension of the Help to Buy scheme, which should help address the chronic shortage of affordable housing in parts of the south west (but which critics accuse of pushing up prices.)

There may, of course, be something else that will take us all but surprise - but don't hold your breath.

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