STAMP duty is to be abolished for first-time buyers on properties up to £300,000, as Chancellor Philip Hammond put measures to tackle the housing crisis at the centre of his Budget.

The measure will also apply on the first £300,000 of a purchase in high-price areas, meaning 95 per of first-time buyers will see at least a cut in the amount of stamp duty, with 80 per cent paying none at all.

The cut will come into force immediately, Mr Hammond said, as he set out plans to build 300,000 extra new homes a year by the mid 2020s.

He said: “This is our plan to deliver on the pledge we have made to the next generation that the dream of home ownership will become a reality in this country once again.”

The Chancellor committed to £44 billion of capital funding, loans and guarantees over five years to support house-building.

He also announced an ‘urgent review’ of the gap between the number of planning permissions granted and housing build starts.

In Bolton alone, there are currently 9,000 undeveloped planning permissions, while thousands of new homes are earmarked to be built across the borough to meet shortfalls.

Bolton Council's town centre masterplan identifies a number of areas where housing could be built, which is in line with Mr Hammond's pledge yesterday to focus on redeveloping urban areas and protecting green belt land.

Mr Hammond announced that a new project be trialled in Greater Manchester to tackle the issue of homelessness and empty housing.

The Government is investing £28 million to set up a ‘Housing First’ scheme, which will also run in the West Midlands and Liverpool.

Councils will also be given the power to charge a 100 per cent council tax premium on empty properties.

Greater Manchester will receive an allocation of £243 million from the Transforming Cities Fund to improve infrastructure.

But in a sign of the economic difficulties facing the UK, Mr Hammond said the Office for Budget Responsibility had downgraded growth forecasts across the next five years.

Britain's fiscal watchdog revised down its growth predictions as the nation looks set to struggle with "stubbornly flat" productivity and weaker business investment.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn condemned the Budget, saying it was a 'record of failure with a forecast of more to come'.

Despite the tight finances, Mr Hammond set out a series of spending measures including an emergency cash injection for the NHS, with £350 million to cope this winter.

He also indicated that extra money could be available if the cap on NHS staff pay rises is lifted and announced £2.8 billion of new funding up to 2019-20.

However, the Chancellor came in for criticism as there was no mention of social care in his speech, the issue at the heart of the Tory election campaign's troubles.

A Brexit war chest of at least £3 billion has been set aside to prepare the UK for the prospect of failing to secure a deal with Brussels.

On another controversial issue, Mr Hammond bowed to pressure to reform the Universal Credit benefit.

He announced a £1.5 billion package including the removal of the seven-day waiting period applied at the beginning of a benefit claim.

The National Living Wage will rise in April from £7.50 an hour to £7.83 — a £600 pay rise for full-time workers.

There was good news on booze as the Chancellor said most duties would be frozen, but he said there would be an increase for high-strength 'so-called white ciders'. Smokers were also hit with an extra 1 per cent duty on hand rolling tobacco this year on top of the normal annual duty increases.

For motorists, the Chancellor confirmed the annual fuel duty rise for both petrol and diesel would be cancelled again.

But drivers of new diesel cars will face higher taxes unless their vehicles meet the toughest emissions standards, with the money used to pay for a £220 million 'clean air fund' to improve air quality.