Brendan Barber, general secretary of the TUC, said in response to the Budget:

“Today has been a no-change budget. The chancellor has been forced to reveal the evidence that his policies aren’t working but has not had the courage to change them.

“Today’s measures do nothing to end the basic error of imposing deep, rapid and unfair spending cuts on an economy where unemployment is rising and growth faltering.

“While there are some welcome measures on funding for apprenticeships and much needed relief on fuel duty, most of today is about taking us back to the 1980s with deregulation gimmicks, hand-outs to big business and a deterioration of working conditions that failed to deliver jobs or growth then and won’t today.

“Overall, there was little in the way of help for hard-pressed ordinary people fearful for their jobs and reeling from inflation driven by the VAT increase. And for the young unemployed the best the chancellor had to offer was cut-price unpaid work experience.

“Now workers learn that they are set for stealth increases in their tax every year as the chancellor switches tax rate increases to the consumer price index in the same way that he has already hit pensions and benefits.”