Chancellor Rishi Sunak has scrapped plans for increases in business rates and fuel duty as part of measures to help businesses announced today in his Budget.

He said that next year’s planned annual increase in business rates would not go ahead in England, which is expected to be matched by governments in other parts of the UK.

He also announced that, from 2023, businesses would be able to make improvements to their properties without having to pay extra rates for 12 months.

He promised reforms of the business rates system, making it “fairer and timelier with more frequent revaluations every three years”, starting in 2023.

The reforms also include a new relief for companies that invest in green technologies such as heat pumps and solar panels.

In another boost for UK businesses, Sunak announced that a scheduled increase in fuel duty would be cancelled.

He also confirmed that the national living wage would increase from £8.91 to £9.50 per hour from April 2022.

As part of the Spending Review announced today, government spending on skills and training will be increased by £3.8billion by May 2024 – a rise of 42%.

The Government will reach its £22billion target for research and development by 2026-27, two years later than originally planned. It pledged to invest £20billion in R&D by 2024-25.

The Chancellor also announced £1.7billion of funds through around 100 grants from the Treasury’s £4.8billion Levelling Up Fund for investing in infrastructure, urban regeneration, upgrading local transport, and cultural and heritage assets.

These will go to towns and cities across the UK including Leicester, South Derby, Stoke-on-Trent, Leeds, Doncaster, Liverpool, Sunderland and Renfrewshire.

Looking ahead, Sunak remained optimistic but predicted it would take until early 2022 for the economy to return to its pre-pandemic size.

He reported that the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) forecast that the UK economy would grow by 6.5% this year.

However, he admitted that, because of inflationary pressures, the OBR predicted that inflation would be above 4% next year.