Frontline services can be protected despite the need to make “difficult choices” on public spending cuts, the Chancellor has said.

Speaking to the BBC ahead of the G20 summit in Pittsburgh, Alistair Darling admitted that savings would have to be made, but added the decision over where the money would come from was not “black and white”.

“When you want to have tighter public spending you have to make difficult choices, but I think you can protect frontline services.

“It means that you are going to have to say: ‘Well, when times are fine then we may come back to it’.

“But it isn’t just a choice of black and white, that you either have lots of public services or you, as they say, switch the lights out.”

The announcement comes as plans to manage the growing national debt take centre stage in political debate ahead of next year’s election.