Osborne unveils 'tough' Budget
The Government is asking public sector workers to accept a two-year pay freeze as Chancellor George Osborne has promised to to balance Britain's books within five years as he used the emergency Budget to rip into the inheritance left by Labour.
Promising to deal decisively with the UK's record debts, Mr Osborne said there would be protection for the 1.7 million public servants earning less than £21,000.
Those low-paid workers will receive a flat pay-rise worth £250 in both years.
Unveiling the emergency Budget, Mr Osborne warned of his economic plan: "Yes it is tough; but it is also fair."
He pulled no punches about the state he said the last government left the economy in, saying: "This is an emergency Budget, so let me speak plainly about the emergency that we face. The coalition Government has inherited from its predecessor the largest budget deficit of any economy in Europe with the single exception of Ireland.
"One pound in every four we spend is being borrowed. What we have not inherited from our predecessor is a credible plan to reduce their record deficit."
He said postponing difficult decisions was not an option. "The consequence for Britain would be severe. Higher interest rates, more business failures, sharper rises in unemployment, and potentially even a catastrophic loss of confidence and the end of the recovery."
And in comments that will be seen as a dig at former chancellor and prime minister Gordon Brown, who was not in the Commons, Mr Osborne said: "I am not going to hide hard choices from the British people or bury them in the small print of the Budget documents. You're going to hear them straight from me, here in this speech."
He said everyone would be asked to contribute.
"But in return we make this commitment. Everyone will share in the rewards when we succeed. When we say that we are all in this together, we mean it."