David Cameron has called on Britons to "pull together" to get the country's economy back on track, promising that within a few years the sacrifices they make will deliver financial rewards.
And he urged all citizens to get involved in action to improve their communities and build a "Big Society", telling them: "Your country needs you."
In his first speech to a Conservative conference as Prime Minister, Mr Cameron acknowledged that there was "anxiety" over the massive public spending cuts due to be imposed in George Osborne's spending review on October 20 and recognised that it was not easy for families to cope with the loss of Child Benefit announced this week.
But he dismissed Labour's argument that the UK's record £109 billion deficit should be paid off more slowly in order to protect jobs, telling the gathering: "There is no other responsible way."
Mr Cameron vowed that the cuts would be "fair" and that the Government would protect the sick, vulnerable and elderly as it sought to eliminate the structural deficit within five years.
And he said: "I promise you that if we pull together to deal with these debts today, then just a few years down the line the rewards will be felt by everyone in our country.
"More money in your pocket. More investment in our businesses. Growing industries, better jobs, stronger prospects for our young people. And the thing you can't measure but you just know it when you see it - the sense that our great country is moving ahead once more."
Senior party sources played down suggestions that Mr Cameron was hinting at tax cuts to come before the 2015 general election, once the programme of economic retrenchment has taken effect. They insisted he was referring to the financial benefits to be reaped from renewed growth, enterprise and the creation of new businesses.
Mr Cameron's speech rounded off a conference in Birmingham which has been dominated by Mr Osborne's announcement on Monday that Child Benefit was to be abolished for higher-rate taxpayers. The PM was forced into a TV apology for failing to be upfront with voters about the need for the cut, which will cost three-child families with a parent earning over £44,000 around £2,500 a year from 2013.
But he mentioned the furore only in passing, telling activists: "As we work to balance the budget, fairness includes asking those on higher incomes to shoulder more of the burden than those on lower incomes.