IT is a much-needed shot in the arm for Hampshire trade and industry.

That is the reaction from champions of industry across the county as the Chancellor unveiled his latest budget.

Measures revealed yesterday aimed at helping businesses include investment in a lending scheme aimed at boosting exports being doubled to £3 billion.

It also included an increase to £500,000 in the allowance for investing in plant and machinery, and changes to research and development tax credits.

Hampshire Chamber of Commerce chief executive Stewart Dunn called the measures “encouraging”.

“The Chancellor has finally recognised the needs of exporters and manufacturers, many of whom have been really struggling.

“Raising the amount of lending available for export finance and cutting energy bills for manufacturers are both welcome steps, though overdue given the challenging economic picture up to now.”

He praised the extension of grants for small businesses to take on apprentices and the doubling of the annual investment allowance – a big tax break for expanding companies.

“Those in enterprise zones will especially welcome the targeted extension of capital allowances and the discounting of business rates.

“Businesses of all kinds will be helped by the scrapping of the planned fuel duty rise.

“It remains to be seen if he has done enough to ensure certainty and stability for business investment in the longer term but many of the measures announced, as well as the growth figures for this year, are encouraging.”

Paul Duckworth, a tax partner at Southampton firm Smith Williamson, said: “Considering the Chancellor didn’t have much to play with there are some very good announcements for businesses.

“Particularly the increase in the level of repayable credit for undertaking research and development work.

“This will help technology and manufacturing businesses in the south.

“In general, freezing petrol rates and reductions in energy costs are great, especially add-ed to support in exporting which is welcomed, but historically these areas have not proved as helpful to local businesses as the headline implies.

“Most people should have more money in their pocket, but with the reductions in duty, we will need to decide whether to save it in these improved ISA’s or spend it on a night of bingo and beer.”

Tax expert Peter Richardson, from Moore Stephens (South) LLP, said: “I would say that he is trying to ease matters for businesses and savers without going too far and upsetting the growth in the economy.

“One surprise is the doubling of the 100 per cent tax relief on expenditure on plant and machinery.”