The Chancellor received divided reaction to his Autumn Statement, sparking anger from unions but more support from business groups.

John Allan, chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses, said: "Today's Autumn Statement represents steady progress, with a range of announcements that address members' concerns in the cost of doing business, with action on business rates and confirmation that next year's fuel duty rise will be cancelled.

"The statement is a sobering reminder about the scale of the deficit the country faces and the tough choices which need to be made.

"We therefore welcome the use of what spare resources the Chancellor could find to focus tax cuts on encouraging firms to take on younger workers, which must be an overriding priority."

Mark Serwotka, leader of the Public and Commercial Services union said: "George Osborne's ludicrous claim that austerity is working will be news to those whose living standards are continuing to fall, who are having to turn to payday lenders and foodbanks in what is one of the world's richest countries.

"This is not an economic plan, it's austerity for austerity's sake, as the Tories - propped up by the Lib Dems - look to reshape our society for years to come and make the poor, sick and unemployed pay for the greed and recklessness of wealthy elites."

Paul Kenny, general secretary of the GMB, said: "Britain is near the top of the international league table for household indebtedness.

"Millions of families with low and middle incomes are saddled with very high mortgages and they are under severe pressure, even with low interest rates, to pay their weekly bills given they have faced inflation and have received little or no pay rises.

"We did not hear today from the Chancellor any predictions when wage increases will start to match and even outstrip inflation."