Public borrowing rises to £3bn in December

22 Jan 19

Public sector net borrowing was £300m higher in December compared to the month time in 2017, official figures have shown.

Total borrowing reached £3bn in the final month of 2018, compared to £2.7bn a year earlier, however there is an overall trend of reduced borrowing in the current financial year, the Office for National Statistics said.

Borrowing in the current financial year-to-date was £35.9bn, £13.1bn less than in the same period in 2017. This is the lowest year-to-date borrowing for 16 years, the data showed.

Commenting on the figures, Mike Jakeman, senior economist at PwC, said government borrowing in December was higher than expected, adding: “The uncertainty around Brexit means there is less clarity on the outlook for government spending than we would usually expect.”

Yael Selfin, chief economist at KPMG, said borrowing looked liked to exceed Office for Budget Responsibility forecasts.

“Public sector borrowing increased to £35.9bn for the current financial year in December. This is will above the forecast of £25.5bn made by the OBR in October and, even allowing for lower borrowing in the coming months in line with past years, the total borrowing figure would still be £5bn higher than expected according to our estimates,” she said.

“Today’s data will do nothing to lift the mood after “Blue Monday” as any deterioration in the public finances ahead of the Brexit deadline in March will eat into the headroom available for the chancellor if things do not go to plan.”

In December, the ONS changed the way student loans are accounted for on the national accounts, adding £12bn to the national deficit.

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