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Brown's Budget: 'Big on skills, weak on substance'

The RIBA has given a cautious welcome to chancellor Gordon Brown's latest Budget, while criticising its lack of substance.

The Budget included a series of measures likely to impact on small practices. The chancellor committed to reducing the housing shortage in the South East; help small business; cut red tape; solve the skills crisis; and maintain public spending.

Brown also set aside £240 million for the 'reconstruction of war-torn Iraq'. Importantly, the chancellor insisted the Treasury was still committed to its vast public-sector building programme, promising he would not waver from the education and health programmes announced in last summer's Comprehensive Spending Review.

However, the RIBA's head of government relations, Jonathan Labrey, described the Budget as 'pretty thin'. 'It was big on skills and the housing market, but generally weak on substance, ' he said.

The chancellor also told the House of Commons that the government was determined to solve the 'skills deficit' in construction. He said he would expand the Highly Skilled Migrant Programme, allowing for more engineers and technically qualified workers to settle in the UK.

The decision came just a day after deputy prime minister John Prescott announced that Rethinking Construction author Sir John Egan is set to launch an inquiry into the skills crisis in architecture and construction.

And in a move sure to please small practices, Brown announced that the Treasury will second experts from the CBI and the Institute of Directors to help cut red tape for small businesses.

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