George Osborne denied that the poor were bearing the brunt of austerity as he defended his mini-budget today.
The Chancellor also rejected accusations that he fiddled the figures to make the Government's finances look better, and played down fears that the UK's credit rating could be downgraded.
The bullish comments came as experts pored over the contents of a bleak Autumn Statement, which confirmed that stalling growth meant painful cuts and tax rises would continue until at least 2018.
Most working-age benefits are being cut in real terms for three years, while the better-off will be hit by reductions in higher-rate pension reliefs and a below-inflation rise in the 40p tax threshold.
Sweeteners included scrapping a planned 3p-a-litre rise in fuel duty, a 1% cut in corporation tax, and changes to allowances which will take earnings below £9,440 out of income tax altogether.
One credit ratings agency has warned that Britain's cherished AAA credit rating is under threat after the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) confirmed a key coalition debt target would be missed.
Fitch said it expected that by 2015 debt would now be "approaching the upper limit of the level consistent with the UK retaining its 'AAA' status".
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