Measures to make affordable housing schemes attractive to those on low incomes were announced, but Alistair Darling offered little to cheer agents, housebuilders and the many buyers not eligible for special schemes. The Times

Plans to exempt many low-income homebuyers from stamp duty if they purchased through government shared-ownership schemes were welcomed. But observers said that higher stamp duty thresholds for all buyers would have done more to improve affordability across the housing market.

Peter Bolton King, chief executive of the National Association of Estate Agents, said: 'This Government needs to realise that the housing market is slowing and the gravy train is over. He has failed the British homeowner.'