Gordon Brown was accused of a "feeble" response to the threat of global warming after raising taxes on air and road travel.

A return plane ticket will rise by #10 and petrol will increase by 1.25p a litre to help fund a #36 billion school building spree.

The so-called green taxes follow October's hard-hitting report by economist Sir Nicholas Stern, which warned the world's economy could be slashed by 20 per cent as the effects of global warming were felt.

But environmental campaigners Friends of the Earth accused the Chancellor of doing too little and "fiddling while the planet burns".

West Midland spokesman Chris Crean said: "The Chancellor's response has been feeble. Key green initiatives have been ignored, and those that he has introduced are inadequate."

Instead, Mr Brown followed in Tony Blair's footsteps by making it clear education will be his top priority if he becomes Prime Minister.

He promised #36 billion over four years to rebuild 21,000 schools and make them "fit for the 21st century".

The money will also help colleges and universities, and Birmingham lawyer Sir Digby Jones, former Director General of the CBI, has been drafted in as a Government advisor to shake up vocational training.

There will also be more money going directly to schools, with the average secondary receiving a #50,000 spending boost and primaries receiving around #11,000.

Yesterday's pre-budget report, Mr Brown's tenth, will also be his last. Mr Blair will stand down as Prime Minister within a year, and the Chancellor is the favourite to replace him.

The Chancellor also introduced measures encouraging developers to build "zero carbon homes" which did not contribute to global warming.

These would typically be well-insulated and feature innovative boilers or solar panels which generate their own energy. Such properties will be exempt from stamp duty, Mr Brown said.

Other high-profile measures included extra payments for expectant mothers – who will now become eligible for child benefit in the 29th week a pregnancy.

The payments, of #17.45 a week for a first child, are currently available only once the baby is born.

The Treasury also confirmed that the Lyons inquiry into local government will be delayed until next year's budget, probably in March.

Sir Michael Lyons, the former Chief Executive of Birmingham Council, is considering reforms of the council tax.

It was announced yesterday that his inquiry will also now consider the implications for local councils of plans to reform Britain's transport system, lack of housing and the economic impact of global warming.

But Conservatives said Mr Brown was merely putting off council tax reforms which will cost residents millions.

Warwickshire MP Caroline Spelman, the Tory Shadow Local Government Secretary, said: "It is clear the Chancellor will target families and pensioners whose only crime is to live in a nice neighbourhood."

Mr Brown told MPs he had been able to invest in education because of Britain's continued economic success.

He warned the UK faced increasing competition from India and China, saying: "Economies like ours have no choice but to out-innovate and out-perform competitors by the excellence of our science and education."

Shadow Chancellor George Osborne claimed the Chancellor was "obsessed about securing his next job" and asked why the statement had not mentioned health.

"How could he possibly have stood there today and have the nerve to speak for 40 minutes without mentioning the NHS?"

But Richard Lambert, the Director-General of the Confederation of British Industry, praised the chancellor for recognising "the need to address the challenges posed by globalisation."

He warned taxes on industry were higher in the UK than overseas.

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>> Read Gordon Brown's pre-Budget speech in full here


* Growth this year is expected to hit 2.75 per cent, surpassing the 2-2.5 per cent forecast in the spring. The Chancellor forecast growth of between 2.75 and 3.25 per cent

* Net borrowing to fall from #37 billion this year to #31 bn, #27 bn, #26 bn, #24 bn and #22 bn in the coming years

* Fuel duty will go up by 1.25p a litre from midnight, ending the three-year freeze

* Air passenger duty will double – to #10 for most flights from February 1

* Investment in school, college and university buildings will rise to #10.2 billion by 2010-11 – taking spending to #36 billion over the next four years

* Additional cash paid direct to head teachers to rise from #39,000 to #50,000 for the typical primary school and from #150,000 to #200,000 for secondary schools

* Universities will receive #60 million a year for applied research with commercial potential

* Basic state pension is to increase by 3.6 per cent in April next year to #87.30; pension credit guarantee to increase by #5 a week for a single person and #7.65 a week for a couple

* A stamp duty exemption for new zero-carbon emission homes to be introduced

* A new Whitehall efficiency drive is to release a further #26 billion a year for frontline services such as the National Health Service

* Additional child benefit is to be paid to every mother in the final months of pregnancy

* Security services to receive #84 million to continue their expansion to combat the terrorist threat

* A new body to oversee health research

* Copyright cheats who sell pirate versions of music and films via the internet to face up to ten years in jail

More Birmingham Post pre-Budget stories:

>> Brown blasted for 'feeble' report
>> Brown fails to go green
>> Sir Digby sets sights on skills
>> Political Editor Jonathan Walker gives his opinion
>> Birmingham Chamber of Commerce & Industry's reaction
>> Air fares to rise
>> Pension fear over u-turn
>> Brown cautious but not frugal

>> Read Gordon Brown's speech in full
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* What did you think of the pre-Budget report? How will it affect you? Is it good for the environment? Give us your opinion at the messageboards.