The chancellor wanted to do more to tackle the UK’s ballooning deficit but was overruled by the prime minister, according to reports today.

Alistair Darling originally came up with “tougher” measures for this week’s pre-Budget report to start making inroads into the £178bn of public borrowing needed this year, the BBC said.

But with an election due within months, Gordon Brown stepped in to maintain a multi-billion pound spending boost to protect frontline services such as schools and the NHS, the broadcaster added.

In Wednesday’s pre-Budget report, Mr Darling predicted borrowing costs would increase this year to £178bn - up from a previous estimate of £175bn.

He pledged to halve the deficit over the next four years in an “orderly way” that would not threaten the recovery.

Among the revenue-raising measures unveiled were a 1 per cent pay rise cap for public sector settlements, and a 0.5 per cent increase in national insurance contributions - but both of these come in from 2011, well after the next election.