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Budget: UK will become Europe's technology centre, claims Chancellor

Support for broadband, R&D, video games and enterprise zones

Chancellor George Osborne insisted in today's Budget that the UK will become "Europe's technology centre".

While delivering a Budget that cut corporation tax, raised stamp duty on the most expensive homes, and offered an increase in the personal allowance for tax, Osborne said there would be support for the UK's technology and video games industries, with support for broadband, research and development, and companies issuing patents.

A cut in corporation tax to 24 percent (and to 22 percent by 2014) is intended to support businesses, as is cutting the tax on small businesses to 20 percent. Osborne also announced a fund to help entrepreneurs start their own firms.

" We are going to turn Britain into Europe's technology centre", Osborne told the House of Commons in his Budget speech.

Osborne said that to achieve this, "we need the best infrastructure". The government will fund ultra fast broadband rollouts in the UK's 10 largest cities, including Belfast, Birmingham, Bradford, Bristol, Cardiff, Edinburgh and London. There will also be £50 million further funding for smaller cities. He did not define what was meant by 'ultra fast'.

With improved mobile coverage, Osborne said, "we will have the most connected countryside in Europe".

As part of efforts to support technology, "we are cutting taxes on patents", Osborne said, in order to aid innovation and commercialisation of ideas. There will be an increased tax credit for smaller firms investing in research and development, and a doubling in the incentive scheme grant limit to "help new start-ups".

Osborne praised Britain's "brilliant video games and animation industries", and said there would be new tax credits for those sectors.

The science budget would also be protected at £100 million, he said.

There was also support for job creation and apprenticeships. The UK had a "record number of apprenticeships", he said, and was introducing new "enterprise loans" to help people start new businesses.

Twenty four enterprise zones are opening in England, including in London, Dundee, Irving, Cardiff and Belfast, he said, offering incentives to cutting edge businesses.

The National Loan Guarantee, announced earlier this week, would ensure £20 billion is guaranteed in big banks lending to small businesses, he said. There would also be support for midcap businesses, "which are the backbone of the economy", he said.

The UK would also become a key offshore market for the Chinese renminbi currency, he said, a move that is expected to drive significant investment in UK clearing technology.

Giving his verdict on the economy, growth was estimated by the OBR at two percent this year, and the levels of public borrowing were to be cut to 7.6 percent next year, from 11 percent two years ago. Borrowing would be cut from £126 billion this year to £98 billion by 2013-4.

Osborne said it was a "budget that rewards work.... and unashamedly backs business".


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