Business World

Sunday 22 April 2018

Britain slumps to borrowing record

Britain slumped into the red by a higher-than-expected £23.3bn in November - the highest monthly borrowing figure since records began, official figures revealed today.

The figure, which excludes financial interventions by the UK government, was a marked increase on the £17.4bn a year earlier and beat the previous highest monthly borrowing record of £21.1bn in December 2009, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

Total public borrowing for the year to date now stands at £104.4bn, the ONS said, creeping closer to the government target of £149bn for the financial year.

Economists have warned the coalition is in danger of exceeding the target - and overshooting the Office for Budget Responsibility's recently downgraded forecast of £148.5bn for the year.

The bigger-than-expected figure will be seen by Chancellor George Osborne as supporting the need for recent austerity measures, which include an £81bn package of spending cuts and a hike in VAT next year.

Economists were braced for a rise in the year-on-year level of public borrowing in November but none predicted a figure so high.

Jonathan Loynes, chief economist at Capital Economics, said: "Given that the economy has expanded rather more quickly than anticipated over recent quarters, we might have expected somewhat lower current borrowing, even allowing for the usual lags."

The unprecedented £5.9bn leap in borrowing was mainly due to government spending - up 10.8pc on last year. EU contributions and spending on health and defence were particularly high last month, the ONS said, while VAT receipts dipped by 0.1pc.

Net debt is now £863.1bn, which represents 58pc of gross domestic product (GDP) - another monthly record.

A spokesman for the Treasury said today's figures backed the UK government's fiscal-tightening measures and were in line with the forecasts of the tax and spending watchdog.

He said: "November's borrowing figures show why the Government has had to take decisive action to take Britain out of the financial danger zone.

"These outturns are also in line with the Office of Budget Responsibility's latest forecast for borrowing to fall by almost £10bn this year compared to last, and for tax receipts to increase by over 7pc year on year."

While total tax revenues are increasing, economists have warned the UK is battling against ever-increasing interest payments on its mammoth debt levels.

Mr Loynes added: "Overall, there is nothing here to weaken the Government's determination to see through its austerity programme. But we continue to doubt that the economy will weather the coming fiscal storm as well as it hopes."

Press Association

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