Belfast Telegraph

Government borrowing now at lowest level in a decade

By Ben Woods

The government borrowed its lowest amount in February for 10 years, giving the Chancellor a boost in his quest to shore up the public finances. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said public sector net borrowing excluding state-owned banks fell by £2.8bn to £1.8bn last month.

It came in lower than the expectations of economists, who had pencilled in a larger figure.

Government borrowing, excluding banks, for the financial year to date, April to February, dropped by £19.9bn to £47.8bn, in contrast to the same period last year. The ONS said it was the lowest year-to-date borrowing figure since February 2008.

The Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR), the government's fiscal referee, said in the spring Budget that it expects Chancellor Philip Hammond to undershoot previous borrowing targets for this financial year, revising its outlook from £68.2bn to £51.7bn.

Mr Hammond has ditched his predecessor's target of balancing the books by 2020, vowing instead to put the public finances back in the black "as early as possible" in the next Parliament as part of a new Charter for Budget Responsibility.

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