Sterling has fallen as much as 8pc against the dollar since the start of 2013.

The pound is up 0.3pc in trading on Wednesday.

09.35 While the decision to hold QE and the interest rate was
expected, unemployment figures out today are worse than expected.

Unemployment claims fell 1,500 last month from January to 1.54 million,
according to the Office for National Statistics.

The median forecast of 27 economists in a Bloomberg survey was for a drop of

In the quarter through January, unemployment as measured by International
Labour Organisation methods rose by 7,000 to 2.52 million, the first
increase since January 2012. Wages rose at the slowest pace since 2009.

The figures are a blow to Osborne, just hours before he is due to present
another austere budget today. They suggest the labour market is slowing as
the economy risks falling into a third recession in five years.

Unemployment among 16-24-year-old rose 48,000 in the three months through
January, the biggest increase for almost 1 1/2 years.

Unemployment claims fell 1,500 last month, less than the 5,000 expected
by economists.

09.30 And here are those minutes
from the March meeting
of the Bank of England rate-setting meeting.

The nine-member committee voted 6-3 in favour of holding QE at £375bn – the
same split as the February meeting.

And it was the same people voting for it as well – the Bank’s governor Sir
Mervyn King, Paul Fisher and David Miles all voted for a £25bn increase to
the monetary stimulus programme.

All nine members voted to hold the bank rate at its record low of 0.5pc.

Bank governor Sir Mervyn King voted to increase QE by £25bn.

09.20 It goes without saying that the Budget is not the only thing
happening today. A few other things to keep your eyes out for include the
Bank of England minutes from the last monetary policy meeting.

They voted to hold QE at £375bn and maintain the bank at 0.5pc, but the
minutes could show a split, as there was in February’s meeting when there
was a 6-3 split with Governor King one of the three voting in favour of
expanding QE.

There are also unemployment figures out for the UK as well. Both out shortly
and will be covered in the blog.

The Bank of England Monetary Policy Committee minutes are out at 9.30am.

08.56 With Osborne set to deliver his a budget under enormous pressure
to deliver an economic upturn, The Telegraph’s Political Correspondent Peter
Dominiczak takes a look at how in the last three years confidence
him has gradually eroded.

Today is expected to be George Osborne’s most important Budget since the
Coalition was formed.

With gloomy economic forecasts, a resurgent Labour party, and increasingly
rebellious Tory backbenchers, the Chancellor needs to convince voters that
his plan for the UK’s finances is the right one.

Amid signs that the Office for Budget Responsibility will again downgrade
growth forecasts, Mr Osborne will again attempt to explain to the country
why the course he has chosen is better that the one favoured by Ed Balls,
the shadow chancellor

Here, The Telegraph’s Peter Dominiczak looks at Mr Osborne’s Budgets since
coming to power in 2010, examining how his message has changed over the
years as Britain’s financial state has become ever-more perilous.

08.44 Osborne today delivers his budget against a background of
faltering growth and mounting public debt which has left him with little
room for giveaways. This
wasn’t what he had in mind at all

Rowena Mason Reports:

Imagine for a moment that George Osborne’s Plan A had gone to plan.

If those forecasts prepared in the confident early days of the Coalition
had come true, the Chancellor would today be boasting of 2.9pc growth last
year, instead of a near-flat economy and fears of a continuing slump this

As things stand, the Chancellor has very little scope for hand-outs or
peace offerings in today’s Budget. The economy is still suffering the
enduring effects of the banking and eurozone crises.

Mr Osborne’s focus will have to be boosting growth by helping business
investment and trying to keep down the cost of living for squeezed families.
He will have to make unglamorous announcements about infrastructure
spending. His boasts will be about having stopped the economy from being
even worse.

Imagine for a moment that George Osborne’s Plan A had gone to plan.

08.30 The Telegraph’s
Wonder Women busines panel
, made up of experienced female
entrepreneurs and business leaders, has warned that tackling childcare costs
is only “half the answer” if we are to make sure that more women
return to work and stay in valuable jobs contributing towards the future of

Peacock reports

The panel, launched to coincide with the Budget, urges George Osborne to
introduce proposals to attract more young women into studying science,
technology, engineering and maths (STEM) subjects and encourage more of them
into the STEM workforce.

Currently just 6pc of the engineering workforce is made up by women, with a
little over 12pc making up the wider STEM industries. The industry faces a
ticking time bomb of an ageing population mixed with a lack of people
entering the workforce, suggesting the Government should take drastic
measures to encourage more females to enter the industry.

The Telegraph Wonder Women business panel: From (l) to (r): Heather
Jackson, Barbara Kasumu, Karen Mattison, Liz Bingham, Dr Olga Kubassova,
Louisa Hogarty and Dessi Bell

08.18 George Osborne has tweeted for the first time, with a picture of
him signing today’s Budget, as he promises to tackle the economy’s problems “head

George Osborne’s first tweet includes a picture showing him signing off
today’s Budget.

08.13 Of course, while we are focusing on the Budget, the situation in
Cyprus is still bubbling away and Michael Hewson, senior market analyst at
CMC Markets, says that in the absence of any real radical reforms, Osborne’s
speech is “likely to be more about political theatre than anything else”.

Quote With respect to expectations about the Chancellor’s budget statement
later today it has to be said the bar is set very low, given the state of
the public finances and the squeezed UK consumer.

Anyone looking for anything radical is likely to be disappointed as the
Chancellor plays his annual version of moving the deckchairs around in his
attempts to try and engineer some semblance of growth in a flat lining
economy within the confines of the straitjacket of coalition that he finds
himself in.

Markets will be looking for business friendly measures to boost growth,
like tax reductions to corporation tax given that larger UK businesses are
probably the only ones with any surplus cash, while tax breaks for other
investment are also likely to be well received.

As part of a €10bn bailout, Cyprus had said it would tax savings in the

08.01 UK markets seem to be feeling positive ahead of the unveiling of
the red box.

The FTSE 100 has opened up 0.4pc in early trading on Wednesday.

07.48 In Allister Heath’s latest column for the Telegraph, he says that
while previous Chancellors have had well-defined economic views, Osborne’s
policies have “all the consistency of a pick-andnd-mix counter
ranging from the ultra free market to the neo-socialist”.

While we know that he believes his core mission is to stave off national
bankruptcy, or at least to convince markets he is trying to do so, his
guiding philosophy and vision for Britain remain fiendishly hard to decipher
beneath the intrigue and politicking.

So when the Chancellor stands up in the House of Commons to deliver his
Budget, a series of simple questions should be used to assess the potency of
what he will say, the desirability of his policies and, most importantly of
all, to try to understand what kind of society and economy he is seeking to

George Osborne’s “policies to date have had all the consistency of a
pick-and-mix counter”.

07.32 We have done a great graphic
to show how Britain’s debt and deficit has changed under each Conservative
and Labour chancellor and government
over the past four decades.

Public sector net debt hit £1 trillion in March 2011, and has continued its
steady ascent. The figure has risen from £337bn in 2000, to £1.16 trillion
today – and that’s excluding bank bail-outs.

Chancellor of the Exchequer comparison graphic

07.17 The budget today is also expected to finalise details of the
long-awaited anti-tax legislation due to take effect next month.

But an unusual alliance of anti-poverty campaigners and leading accountants
predict it will do nothing to stop Amazon, Starbucks and many sport stars
avoiding tax in Britain, says The Telegraph’s Ian
Cowie in his latest blog

Nearly three years after the first draft of a General Anti Abuse Rule
(GAAR) was drawn up – and heavily promoted again in last year’s budget – the
clampdown will come into force in the Finance Bill 2013. Murray Worthy, tax
campaigner at the charity War on Want, said: “The proposals for a tax GAAR
are set to be a highlight of Chancellor George Osborne’s Budget speech this

“But Osborne’s attempts to tackle tax avoidance are little more than a
sham. The public are outraged that, for big companies like Starbucks, paying
tax seems to be little more than a matter of choice.

George Bull of accountants Baker Tilly told me: “The GAAR is unlikely to
have any significant impact on arrangements entered into by multinational
groups. But it’s not only companies that exert influence on tax authorities.

Amazon, Google and Starbucks have faced questions on UK tax avoidance.

07.06 The Telegraph’s economics editor Philip Aldrick has been looking
at six
graphs which show the hard choices
facing Osborne.

They include inflation, which has remained above wage increases for the past
few years, and GDP, which shows the “zig-zag” recovery in the UK,
as it was once described by the Bank of England’s governor Sir Mervyn King.

Read the full story here.

06.55 Armed forces are expected
to get an extra pay rise
in today’s budget, after ministers backed
down and agreed to find more money for the Armed Forces.

The Telegraph’s James Kirkup reports:

Osborne, the Chancellor, is expected to announce in his Budget that Service
personnel will see their pay rise by 1.5 per cent, despite a 1 per cent cap
on public-sector pay awards.

The decision follows a controversial call from the Government’s pay
advisers for ministers to give troops extra money to compensate them for the
impact of recent defence cuts.

The rise is likely to be a rare “crowd-pleaser” in an otherwise grim
Budget, which will confirm the dire state of the public finances and show
that Britain’s national debt is to rise still further.

Armed forces to get a 1.5pc pay rise.

06.40 Osborne has also told cabinet
minister to find an extra £2.5bn of cuts
from their whitehall
department budgets. The Telegraph’s Peter Dominiczak reports:

Quote Mr Osborne, the Chancellor, will use the proceeds of the cuts to
invest in capital projects designed to kick-start growth.

However, he is set to face accusations that he yielded to pressure from a
number of ministers who have repeatedly questioned the need for further cuts
to their budgets by giving them some protection from the latest measures.

Health, schools, overseas aid and HM Revenue and Customs will be shielded
from the cuts.

All other Whitehall departments have been told to deliver 1 per cent
savings on their day-to-day budgets for each of the two years 2013/14 and
2014/15, on top of cuts from previous budgets and autumn statements, the
Prime Minister’s official spokesman said.

However, police budgets and local government will be protected for the
first year.

Whitehall departments told to find a further £2.5bn of cuts.

06.25 As ever there has been much speculation about what Osborne will
say later today. But there are already some
measures that have been pre-announced or are widely expected.

• The latest measure to be announced is that Osborne will be scrapping a 6p
rise on a pint of beer that was due to come in next week.

• Millions of children with money in “zombie” Child Trust Funds will be able
to switch their cash into higher-paying Isas.

• Scheduled increases in duty on fuel and some alcoholic drinks could be
frozen as ministers try to relieve the pressure on household budgets.

• Government schemes to help people buy homes could be extended to those
seeking to move up to their second property when they start a family.
Discounts to council tenants buying their homes will also rise to as much as

• Civil servants could get bonuses for giving up their automatic pay rises
under Treasury plans to phase out the perk enjoyed by millions of public
sector workers.

• Whitehall departments will find an additional £2.5 billion in public
spending cuts to pay for more government programmes to stimulate the

You can read more here.

Osborne expected to scrap next month’s 6p rise on beer.

06.00 Good morning and welcome to the Budget 2013 live blog.

Chancellor George Osborne will deliver his fourth budget today at 12.30pm. He
is expected to outline a raft of policies which are aimed at increasing
economic output to kickstart the stalling economy.

Budget 2013: live –
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