The Budget announcement that duty on ordinary cider will be frozen and that on beer cut by 1p a pint has been welcomed by South West England Liberal Democrat MEP Sir Graham Watson.

He said: “Freezing the duty on cider is a welcome hand up for cider brewers, pubs and other local businesses which have been badly knocked by the winter’s storms and floods.”

“Apple orchards across the Somerset Levels and the South West have suffered serious damage from the excess water.”

Cider missed out on a cut in duty in last year’s budget.

The alcohol duty escalator, which has increased duty on cider by two per cent above inflation every year since it was introduced by Labour in 2008 has been abolished after it was scrapped for beer last year.

Sir Graham said: “The cider industry is worth £3 billion to our economy and there is no reason to cut duty on beer and leave out its apple-based cousin.”

"The food and drink industry is a vital component of the South West’s economy.

"The pub trade alone adds over £2 billion to the region and employs nearly 100,000 people. This is not just about drink – it is about local jobs.”

Fiona Andrews, director of Smokefree South West, welcomed the rise above inflation in tobacco prices announced in the Budget but said: "Given real concerns over hand rolled tobacco use in the South West, it is disappointing this Budget has not narrowed the gap between manufactured and hand rolled brands.

“Seven out of ten smokers want to quit. Saving hundreds or even thousands of pounds each year can be hugely motivating in today’s climate when household budgets are over-stretched.”

Roger McKenzie, Unison assistant general secretary, said during a visit to Somerset: “The Chancellor has run out of time and ideas. His claims that people are feeling the benefits of his austerity agenda are wearing thin it’s a low wage economy here in the South West, since April 2008 we have seen a 13.7 per cent reduction in wages.  

"The public are not fooled, they know that the gap between the rich and poor is dividing society. They know that their pay has failed to keep pace with the rising cost of everyday essentials such as food and fuel.  And they know that fears over job stability are making them fearful for the future and the future of their families.

“Hundreds and thousands of public service workers have lost their jobs since the cCoalition came to power and Osborne has signalled more cuts to come and their hard-saved pensions under threat again. 

"For those that remain, their pay has been frozen and its value cut between ten per cent and 18 per cent since 2010. 

“UNISON has more than one million members in local government, education and in the NHS and they are upset and angry at the Government’s pay cap.

"Not lifting that cap in the Budget is a clear provocation and they will feel the backlash from nurses, homecare workers, paramedics, therapists, librarians, social workers, teaching assistants and many more. 

"Public service workers don’t care about the shape of the £1 coin – they would just like to see more of them in their pockets."

“Osborne’s sleight of hand over tax changes will do little to close the gap between the haves and have-nots.  Those on higher incomes are the majority beneficiaries of such a move, while the low pay stand to lose through cuts to universal credit and/or council tax support.

“There is an alternative.  The Chancellor should have had the courage of his convictions and stood by his support of a £7 minimum wage.  

"Moving to the Living Wage is the best way to raise tax revenue and put money into people’s pockets.  It would boost consumer confidence and increase spending in local shops and businesses."