Page last updated at 22:02 GMT, Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Gordon Brown warns economic storm not over

Gordon Brown confirmed the Budget will be in two weeks

Prime Minister Gordon Brown has warned Britain of economic "bumps in the road" ahead but vowed "we will weather the storm together".

And in a pre-election swipe at his political rivals, he said "now is not the time to turn back", adding: "I will not let you down."

He also said the Budget would be held on 24 March and confirmed a pay freeze on senior public employees.

The Tories said the biggest risk to a recovery was Mr Brown staying in power.

Shadow Chancellor George Osborne said the prime minister had not delivered on his promise to "end boom and bust" and he had no new ideas to secure recovery, having previously announced a pay freeze on top public salaries.

'Dreadful storm'

"People will judge him on his record and they will see today he has nothing new to offer and, therefore, they will see that the biggest risk to recovery is five more years of him," he told the BBC News Channel.

Whoever wins the election will have to deal with "an enormous economic mess", said Mr Osborne, but he added: "The feeling out there in the country is that Britain is on the wrong track, we need change and the only way to deliver that change is to change the government and get in David Cameron."

We are weathering the storm and now is no time to turn back
Gordon Brown

The Conservatives have said a new "economic model" was needed to replace an economy burdened by public and private debt and have called for action to cut the deficit to begin straight after the election - expected to take place on 6 May.

The Lib Dems say the economy is too fragile to start cutting public spending now although they argue the government must have a credible strategy for cutting borrowing in the medium term.

Treasury spokesman Vince Cable said: "The Budget must clearly spell out where Labour intend to make spending cuts. All we have seen from the prime minister today is more waffle."

Separately, Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg said his party would not raise taxes to bring down the deficit, stressing the focus must be on spending.

Revised figures published in February showed the UK emerged more strongly from recession at the end of last year than had previously been thought, but some economists have warned that growth could easily falter again in the coming months.

Mr Brown said the worst of the recession was over but the economic recovery remained "fragile" and could be undermined if spending cuts were pushed through too quickly.

"While we have come through the worst of this dreadful storm, the waters are still choppy. There are still real risks to the recovery."

Pay

He warned that "recklessly and rapidly" withdrawing the government support put in place after the financial collapse of 2008 would "risk driving our economy back into recession".

But he also urged discipline in public sector pay, announcing a pay freeze on senior public servants such as NHS managers, top civil servants, judges and military leaders and the pay of consultants, GPs and dentists.

He said that combined with the measures announced in December this would save £3bn by 2013/14.

The prime minister warned of further economic risks ahead and said equally tough decisions would be needed as those taken by Labour at the height of the 2008 financial crisis.

"We have got through this storm together, but there are still substantial risks ahead, there will be bumps in the road and I believe the only way to overcome them is by displaying the same strength and resolve that we did during the crisis and I will not let you down."

'Character'

Speaking at the same London venue where David Cameron attacked Mr Brown's economic policies last week, Mr Brown mounted a thinly veiled attack on the Tory leader, who has sought to make character an election issue.

"I believe that character is not about telling people what they want to hear but about telling them what they need to know.

George Osborne: "Biggest risk to the economy is Gordon Brown"

"It's about having the courage to set your mission and the courage to take the tough decisions and stick to them without being blown off course, even when the going is difficult.

"With me what you see is what you get - and the stakes are high, we dare not risk the recovery for our task above all else is to preserve and expand the jobs and lift the standards of life of the British people.

"We are weathering the storm. Now is no time to turn back. We will hold to our course and we will complete this mission."

In an interview with the BBC's Political Editor Nick Robinson, Mr Brown said it would be a "decisive" general election, with voters facing a choice between "moving forward" to greater prosperity and job security with Labour or a "free for all" under the Conservatives, with higher unemployment and cuts in services.

Budget details

Meanwhile the Treasury confirmed, in a written statement to Parliament, that Chancellor Alistair Darling will deliver his much-awaited pre-election Budget on Wednesday 24 March.

The Conservatives have pressed the chancellor to use the occasion to give more detail about how he intends to meet Labour's commitment to cut the deficit in half over the next Parliament.

They say the financial markets need greater reassurance on the matter, likening the deficit to a "dark cloud" hanging over the economy and its future recovery prospects.

On Sunday, Mr Darling said he was "absolutely committed" to this goal and said his tax and spending statement would show he was "on course" to cut borrowing from its forecast peak of £178bn this year.

He has ruled out a full spending review until there is more certainty about the economy and while promising to protect spending on health and schools has warned of "difficult choices" elsewhere.

Economists have warned that substantial spending cuts and further tax rises will be needed in the medium term to tackle the deficit but opinion is divided on when this process should begin.



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