BRITAIN'S national debt is rising by £480 million every single day.

The scale of the borrowing is casting a shadow over every political decision.

Put it this way – if basic rate income tax was increased by 5p, we closed the Foreign Office, stopped giving any international aid, disbanded the army, the navy, the air force and the police, and closed every school in the country – we would still have a budget deficit.

The return of economic growth will start to reduce our annual borrowing, but it will not be enough without some serious reductions in public expenditure.

It is not realistic to avoid this agenda. Politicians should be specific about savings. Reductions in tax credits for higher earners and the cancellation of programmes like ID cards will be necessary.

But I am not interested in entering a Dutch Auction with a race to the bottom to cut vital public services. We must retain a vision for a better society which can be built out of the ruins of the economic crisis.

Our goal should be an environmentally sustainable future and a country with real social mobility so everyone has the opportunity to achieve their full potential.

So my ambition is a balanced budget for a greener and fairer Britain.