Budget: What's in it for the East Midlands?

George Osborne walks towards his car outside Downing Street Image copyright AFP

It's always rash to make an immediate assessment of the likely impact of any chancellor's Budget announcements. George Osborne had very little wriggle room in preparing his fourth Budget.

And no doubt, he would have looked over his shoulders at the political meltdown his Budget caused last year. A repeat of the pasty tax omnishambles would have been a career-limiting move indeed.

But through the prism of an East Midlands viewpoint, it's possible to judge which measures he announced will impact on the jobs and economy of the region.

Its economic background looks rather favourable. At 178,000, the latest monthly unemployment figures for the East Midlands showed a fall of 7,000, making it one of the few English regions where employment is on the up.

It could be in part to the network of small and medium sized companies in the East Midlands.

Significantly, the chancellor backed Lord Heseltine's proposals to give 'city regions' such as greater Nottingham much greater economic devolution from Whitehall. The aim is to give small business and the entrepreneur a boost.

That promises more decision-making and government cash to the Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs), the business-led organisations that took over economic regeneration from Labour's Regional Development Agencies.

The Treasury has worked out how much two of the biggest LEPs in the East Midlands are worth economically per head of population. Leicester and Leicestershire is valued at £19,000 per head, and Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire is £17,000 per head.

The chancellor is now looking to the LEPs and small businesses to help kick-start the economy. In one of his measures, start-up small businesses will pay no tax on hiring their first employee.

There was also special cash support for two of the region's contrasting grown sectors. One is to strengthen the UK's aerospace industry, such as Derby-based Rolls-Royce.

The other helping hand is for Nottingham's developing creative industries sector. Confetti, based in the city's Lace Market, runs a flourishing training business for the digital music, TV and film industries.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Will the 1p reduction in beer duty make much of a difference to the region's pubs and breweries?

When Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg visited Confetti, he must have passed on a good word to the chancellor.

One announcement that could have huge repercussions for the East Midlands is George Osborne's announcement about exploring for shale gas. The former coal fields of the region are thought to have huge deposits.

But the potential won't be realised until drilling for the underground gas is allowed. The Budget contained two significant measures: new planning guidance to make it easier for operators to explore and a tax break to cushion start-up costs. The prospect of shale gas exploration and the use of fracking to release the gas is bound to be controversial in communities affected.

The East Midlands remains one of England's fastest growing regions. But an influential report from the Smith Institute think-tank last year warned that the collapse of house building threatened further growth in the region, and would make home ownership for many a distant dream.

The prospect of an interest free loan covering 20% of the cost of a 'newly built home' - as the chancellor described it - could stimulate house building and provide far more starter homes.

And the region's brewing industry can celebrate. Real ale campaigners and the brewers - both large and micro - had raised concerns over the impact of the beer tax escalator, which imposed an automatic annual above-inflation increase on a pint.

As I wrote in an earlier blog, rising beer prices were claimed to be a factor behind last year's closures of up to 10,000 pubs throughout the country.

George Osborne not only scrapped Labour's escalator, but has also cut beer duty by one whole penny. It comes into affect from this Sunday night. But somehow, I'm not expecting long queues outside my local.