UK public finances show January surplus

The UK’s public finances recorded a surplus of £11.4bn in January, £5bn higher than in the same month last year, according to figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

January often records a surplus thanks to an influx of money from tax self-assessment and corporation tax.

Public sector net borrowing, excluding financial interventions, for the financial year to date is now £93.8bn.

This is £1.5bn higher than at the same point a year earlier.

January’s borrowing figures were better than many economists had expected. They are flattered by a £3.8bn windfall which the government received from the Bank of England under a new agreement.

Under that agreement, interest the Bank of England earns on holding government debt is transferred back to the Treasury.

Stripping that out, the surplus was £7.8bn in January.

Treasury Minister Sajid Javid said the figures showed that the government’s plans were “on track”.

But Chris Leslie, shadow financial secretary to the Treasury, said: “Strip away the smoke and mirrors, like the transfer of cash from the Bank of England, and underlying borrowing so far this year is rising and is £5.3bn higher than the same period last year.

“A flatlining economy means the government is borrowing more to pay for economic failure as the welfare bill is up.”

‘Disappointing’

Public sector net debt – the total amount the country owes – stood at £1.16 trillion in January, up from £1.07tn in the same month last year.

This means that as a percentage of gross domestic product, public sector net debt has risen from 69.9% to 73.8%, a rise of almost four percentage points.

James Knightly, an analyst at ING, warned that although January’s figures looked promising, the “the underlying story isn’t quite as good. The UK’s AAA rating remains under threat and with economic activity remaining subdued and tax revenues disappointing, Chancellor Osborne has little wiggle room when he presents his annual Budget next month.”

And David Kern, chief economist at the British Chambers of Commerce, said: “While income tax and VAT receipts show a healthy 4% growth in January this year, corporation tax receipts recorded a decline of 13% when compared with January 2012.

“The large decline in corporation tax receipts highlights the need to support growing companies with the ability to make profit, and the lack of finance available to these companies must be urgently addressed.”

Some analysts believe the chancellor will overshoot the Office for Budget Responsibility’s borrowing forecast for the financial year.

via BBC News

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