georgeosbourneGeorge Osborne's decision to stick firmly to a barrage of austerity measures has drawn criticism from both children's charities and the Royal College of Midwives.

Announcing the government's financial plans for the coming year as part of yesterday's [20 Mar] Budget, the Chancellor told parliament Britain "must hold to the right track."

"We are slowly but surely fixing our country's economic problems," said Osborne, as he unveiled a series of measure aimed at boosting growth, including far-reaching infrastructure projects, while insisting Britain was set to escape a new recession.

"We have now cut the (inherited) deficit, not by a quarter but by a third," the chancellor said as he outlined his tax and spending plans for 2013-14. Despite the progress we have made there is much more to do and today I am going to level with people... It is taking longer than anyone hoped, but we must hold to the right track."

Osborne was referring to his so-called Plan A - backed by Prime Minister David Cameron - to drive down a record budget deficit inherited from the previous Labour administration in 2010.

Osborne's insistence on driving down state borrowing comes despite the chancellor announcing that the government was halving its economic growth forecast for 2013. Part of those measures, included capping public sector pay rises at 1% for a further year; a move which unions claim will leave family budgets "at breaking point".

Commenting on the public sector pay cap, Jon Skewes, director for employment relations, policy and communications at the Royal College of Midwives, said: “This condemns hard-working midwives to another three years of pay misery after two years when pay was frozen. We are also deeply concerned about the plans to stop pay progression. We want to se the NHS Pay Review Body have real independence to make recommendations on pay free from government interference.”

The Chancellor had earlier provided some welcome news for parents in his pre-budget announcement of a change to a new childcare voucher scheme from 2015 but National Children's Bureau chief executive Hilary Emery believes the new measures "there is very little in this Budget to protect these children from moving further into poverty and hardship in 2013".

“As changes to the benefit system come into force, and there are further cuts to services, we know that the next 12 months do not bode well for hundreds of thousands of children living in homes where mum and dad are struggling to make ends meet," added Emery. "If the Chancellor is genuinely aspirational for the nation, he should invest more in children who are the nation’s future, and ensure those from the poorest homes get the best start in life."

The opposition Labour party was also in no mood to applaud these advances, however, while tens of thousands of civil servants were Wednesday holding a 24-hour strike in a row over pay and other working conditions.

"Under this government, the bad news doesn't stop," Labour leader Ed Miliband told MPs in his response to the budget. "Wait for tomorrow, the chancellor says, and I will be vindicated. But with this chancellor, tomorrow never comes ... it's a downgraded budget from a downgraded chancellor."

Posted 21/03/2013 by richard.hook@pavpub.com