Residents in Basingstoke were generally positive about the 2023 budget announced by Chancellor Jeremy Hunt on March 15 - although many said 'they didn't hold much hope'. 

Some of the key points of the budget include an extra 30 hours a week free childcare for every child over the age of nine months, the energy price guarantee, which caps average household bills at £2,500, being extended until June, the scrapping of the work capability assessment, and a new programme called Universal Support, a voluntary employment scheme for disabled people. 

There has also been a 50 per cent increase to the lifetime pension allowance, increasing the cap from £40k to £60k, while the freeze on fuel duty will be extended for another 12 months. The budget will also see tax on draught beer served in pubs cost up to 11p less than the duty in supermarkets.

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The Gazette visited Festival Place on March 16, to talk to residents of Basingstoke and get their reaction to the budget.

Most residents said they hadn't been aware that the budget had already been announced, but said that they 'didn't have much hope' that things would change.

Dave Hughes, 66, from Basingstoke, said: "Overall I think that the budget is good news. The government has a hard job, and they're never going to be able to please everyone. Hopefully the changes they make are beneficial."

Hayley Ostler, who is 34 and lives in Kingsclere, is the manager of Love4life.

Love4Life is a friendship and dating network for people with learning disabilities and autism.

Hayley said: "I think the Universal Support programme is a fantastic opportunity to encourage those with disabilities to get out there and into work, without fearing losing what they already have.

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"That being said, the government need to ensure there is clear understanding and communications between employers and those with disabilities, to give as much support as is necessary to get these people stable jobs in the workplace."

Shelagh Cavanagh, from Basingstoke, said: "Overall, I think the budget was more positive than we were expecting.

"The increase in childcare will be a massive boost for a lot of people out there who want to work, but can't currently because of childcare needs. I think that will be a big one for lots of people."