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BUDGET 2008: Darling highlights housing and transport

Chancellor Alistair Darling has highlighted on housing, reducing road congestion and further support of SMEs in his first Budget.

The Chancellor has confirmed funding to develop road pricing technology, which will help reduce congestion in the long-term.

In the short term funding for local schemes was confirmed last week with a four-year extension to the £200 million-per-year Transport Innovation Fund.

A Ceca spokesman said: "The Government accept that the costs of congestion are forecast to more than double by 2025 but this budget offers the development of road pricing and short term tricks like hard shoulder running as the only means by which they intend to tackle it.

"The Eddington study recommended a sophisticated policy mix of better use, carbon and congestion pricing and targeted improvement and claimed there was a good case for more transport infrastructure. Unless they are going to implement Eddington's recommendations, it's time they stopped quoting him."

Mr Darling said that the £16 billion Crossrail project will support economic growth for the whole of the UK, adding £20 billion to national income.

The Chancellor committed to increasing housing due to rising demand. He said the Government will spend £8 billion on new, affordable and social housing over the next three years

This will enable the Housing Corporation to deliver up to 70,000 new affordable homes will be delivered each year by 2010/11.

Mr Darling also revealed that sites had been identified for 70,000 more houses.

The Chancellor has committed to giving more help to small businesses with capital gains tax remaining at 10 per cent and £12.5 million will be used to encourage more women entrepreneurs looking to start SMEs.

Mr Darling has sent a goal for SMEs to win 30 per cent of all public sector business in the next five years.

He said: "I am asking Anne Glover, Chief Executive of Amadeus Capital Partners, to look into what other barriers we can remove and the practicality of setting a goal for small and medium enterprises to win 30 per cent of all public sector business in the next five years.

"I believe that this could help promote enterprise in one of our most innovative and dynamic areas of the economy. I believe we can help support them grow their businesses, creating new jobs and opportunities."

Mr Darling announced an extra £60 million over the next three years to improve skills, tackle shortages of skilled workers and increase the number of apprenticeships.

The Chancellor revealed that a packet of cigarettes would rise by 11 pence from 6pm tonight. A pint of beer will go up 4 pence and wine will increase 14 per bottle from Sunday.