Angry public sector leaders have hit out at Alistair Darling's plan to freeze their salaries next year.
The Chancellor wants to ensure the best paid employees in the sector share in the country's financial difficulties.
He indicated there would be no pay rise for around 750,000 of the highest earners and this would include senior NHS managers, GPs and judges.
The move is evidence of Labour's direction on public sector pay through the fiscal squeeze of the coming years and it was welcomed by business leaders who called on the government to go further.
Currently, senior civil servants are in a three-year pay deal which is due to end in 2010, but because of the public finance situation the Chancellor wants to scrap the agreement.
Mr Darling also revealed he would respect three-year pay deals for non-senior civil servants, but those without agreements face increases in line with the private sector - ranging between 0% and 1%.
A British Medical Association spokeswoman said: "This is very disappointing news. This is not the time to demoralise doctors. What we had asked in terms of pay increase for all doctors was 2%.
"A pay freeze won't help with recruitment and retention. GPs are potentially being singled out.
"Given the responsibilities GPs have and the level of training needed we don't feel that's the way to proceed."
The timing of the announcement has also been questioned as it came on the eve of shadow chancellor George Osborne's speech to the Conservative Party conference in Manchester.
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