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PM renews pledge to balance books

There will be no let-up in the coalition Government's programme to cut the state deficit and balance the country's books, Prime Minister David Cameron has insisted.

Mr Cameron's vow came as he and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg visited a tractor factory in Essex to relaunch the coalition following last week's mauling of Conservatives and Liberal Democrats in local elections.

Two years after their famous Rose Garden "love-in", Mr Cameron said the coalition was "as important and necessary" as when it was formed after the inconclusive 2010 General Election, while Mr Clegg said the Government had a "moral duty" to deal with debt.

But Labour leader Ed Miliband called on the Government to change course, arguing that the economy had "got worse not better" as a result of their austerity agenda.

Mr Miliband was visiting nearby Harlow - one of a number of areas in Essex where Labour picked up seats and councils last week - just hours before the joint appearance by Mr Cameron and Mr Clegg at the CNH Tractors plant in Basildon.

Speaking side by side to an audience of factory workers, Mr Cameron and Mr Clegg said they were both committed to sorting out the British economy.

"We can't let up on the difficult decisions we've made to cut public spending and to get the deficit and debt under control," said the PM.

"I know it's hard, I know it's difficult, but when you've got a debt problem the one thing you mustn't do is keep adding endlessly to that debt."

And he added: "I believe the need for that coalition - two parties working together to solve the problems we have in our country - I think is as important and necessary today as it was two years ago."

Both leaders are facing intense pressure from within their parties following the cull of hundreds of Tory and Lib Dem councillors in last week's polls.