Public borrowing at 17-year low

24 Apr 19

Government borrowing fell to its lowest level for 17 years in 2018-19 despite exceeding forecasts by nearly £2bn, official data has revealed.

Office for National Statistics data, released today, showed the UK borrowed £24.7bn in the latest financial year. This total is £17.2bn less than in the previous financial year but still over the £22.8bn forecast by the independent Office for Budget Responsibility last month.

The ONS noted that this was the lowest financial year borrowing since 2001-02.

Borrowing in 2018-19 amounted to 1.2% (£24.7bn) of GDP compared to 9.9% of GDP (£153.1bn) at the high of the financial crisis in March 2010.

Chief economist at PwC John Hawksworth said the figures were “a little disappointing” and noted that public borrowing in March 2019 was £1.7bn compared to £0.8bn in March 2018.

He said: “These are only preliminary estimates. The bigger picture is one of significant improvement in the public finances. The budget deficit is down by more than £17bn on a year earlier and now stands at its lowest level in 17 years.

“While there are many political and economic uncertainties ahead, the fact that the public finances are in their best shape for 17years should give the chancellor some room for manoeuvre in his autumn Budget and Spending Review.”

But opposition MPs criticised the government for failing to meet its commitment to eliminating the deficit by 2015.

Shadow chancellor John McDonnell said: “So much for the deficit being eliminated – something the Tories told us they would achieve by 2015.

“Nine hard years of austerity have held down growth, and shifted deficits onto the shoulders of local councillors, NHS mangers, and head teachers.”

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