By politics.co.uk staff
Britain is "on the right track", David Cameron has insisted in his new year's message.
The prime minister spent less time than other party leaders dwelling on the success of the Olympic Games in his message, instead choosing to confront what a "tough" year 2012 was.
Britain spent half the year in recession and economic growth remains uncertain in 2013. Chancellor George Osborne has been forced to extend austerity into the next parliament, meaning the UK still faces a further five years of spending cuts and tax rises.
Addressing these concerns head on, Cameron said: "We are still dealing with debts that built up over many years. And for many families, making ends meet is difficult.
"So to anyone starting this new year with questions about where we are heading and what the future holds, I want to reassure you of this: we are on the right track."
The prime minister said the deficit was forecast to be £13 billion smaller than last new year and down by a quarter since the coalition entered power.
He claimed the government was making progress in reforming the education and welfare systems, making changes to the tax system to make it fairer and helping pensioners.
"So this is my message to the country at the start of 2013," Cameron finished.
"We can look to the future with realism and optimism. Realism, because you can't cure problems, that were decades in the making, overnight. There are no quick fixes and I wouldn't claim otherwise.
"But we can be optimistic too because we are making tangible progress. We are doing what's right for our country and what’s best for our children's future. And nothing could be more important than that."
The new year's message, focusing on the coalition's reforms, did not mention the Labour opposition but appeared to deliberately contrast with Ed Miliband's own message.
The opposition leader pledged to come up with specific policies on education, welfare and business issues next year, after facing criticism from Cameron that Labour was against the government's policies without offering a real alternative.