COUNCIL chiefs attacked a devolution deal for West Yorkshire as timid – after George Osborne again rewarded Manchester with extra powers.

As expected, the Chancellor announced an agreement to hand extra freedoms for the county, over spending on skills, transport, housing and support for small businesses.

The deal also promises greater input into further education budgets and courses, allowing the West Yorkshire Combined Authority to work with small businesses to take on apprentices.

And council chiefs hope to have a greater say over long-term transport and housing planning, in talks with the Homes and Communities Agency, Highways England and Network Rail.

But, in a 59-minute speech today, Mr Osborne devoted only a single sentence to his “agreement with the West Yorkshire Combined Authority for a new city deal”.

And he quickly moved on to another “exciting development” for Greater Manchester, which will be allowed to keep its entire increase in revenue from local business rates.

The move – also promised to Cambridge – offers an extra income stream, while Bradford and all other authorities retain only half of business rate growth.

Councillor Peter Box, chairman of the Combined Authority - covering Bradford, Calderdale, Kirklees, Leeds and Wakefield – said: “The deal is disappointing and doesn’t match the scale of our ambition.

“It undermines the Government’s claim to want a strong Northern powerhouse. If we are to turn that into a reality we need real devolution, including fiscal devolution.”

The Chancellor used his pre-election Budget to offer help to first-time buyers, pledging to top up their savings for a deposit to the tune of £50 for every £200 saved.

He said that, if the Conservatives win the election, the first £1,000 of savings interest will be tax free - meaning 95 per cent of savers will pay no tax.

And – in a fiercely disputed statement – Mr Osborne claimed: “The latest projections show that living standards will be higher than when we came to office.”

The Chancellor also name-checked lobbying by Keighley MP Kris Hopkins, as he cut 1p from beer duty, per cent from cider and whisky and froze fuel and wine duty.

Mr Hopkins said: “I am proud to have played a role in delivering this cut, which will be welcomed not only by punters but also the many brewers and community pubs.”

Mr Osborne had been expected to give further backing to a proposed faster cross-Pennine rail route, dubbed ‘HS3’, but did not mention the project.

Further details are likely to follow on Friday, when the Transport for the North (TfN), Group publishes a strategy “committing to build on the concept of HS3”.

It might confirm that rail chiefs favour the Manchester- Huddersfield-Leeds link by planning to electrify it – which would leave older, diesel trains on the Bradford line.

The budget, however, was largely welcomed by business leaders in Bradford.

Paul Mackie, president of the Bradford Chamber of Commerce, particularly backed employers national insurance for under 21s being abolished from next month.

Mr Mackie said: "Our focus has got to be on the economy prospects for growth and measures which will support business.

"It is a difficult balancing act for him but generally it is a thumbs up for the budget.

"In particular, we welcome the abolition of the employer's national insurance contributions for under 21s and the cancellation of the planned fuel duty escalator later this year.

"Businesses want stability, sustained public finances and prospects for growth."

Val Summerscales, secretary of the Bradford Chamber of Trade, said duty cuts for beer, cider and whisky and other spirits could give a boost to Bradford's evening economy in pubs, bars and clubs.

She also said the freezing of petrol duty will also help Bradford businesses.

She said: "Some things were good for business in the Budget but we are trying to digest the smaller points of it in case there is a sting in the tail.

"Personal allowances going up is good for business too as people will have more disposable income to spend in shops.

"Petrol duty being frozen will be good for businesses when they are delivering goods."

But Mr Osborne was fiercely criticised by Ed Miliband for producing a Budget that he said people will not believe from a Government that is not on their side.

"Never has the gap between the Chancellor's rhetoric and the reality of people's lives been greater than it was today," the Labour leader said.

He also condemned the Chancellor for failing to mention investment in the NHS or public services.