Britain's most senior civil servant has warned the country could face a decade of spending cuts, it has been reported.

Cabinet Secretary Sir Jeremy Heywood has said the Government is just 25% of the way through its austerity programme, said the BBC.

Speaking to civil servants at Westminster, Sir Jeremy was said to have warned that spending restraint could last "seven, eight, maybe ten years".

The Cabinet Office sought to play down his remarks, describing them as "illustrative" and saying that he was referring to the period beginning at the last general election in 2010.

A spokeswoman said that he was simply echoing Chancellor George Osborne who announced in his autumn statement that spending cuts would continue beyond 2015 into the next parliament.

Nevertheless, the disclosure that the country is facing two full parliaments of austerity is likely to cause anger and alarm among unions and campaigners for public services.

Sir Jeremy made his remarks at an event at Westminster organised by the Institute for Government think tank to mark the launch of the Civil Service reform plan.