Government 'on track' for borrowing

Updated: 
David Cameron and George OsborneThe Government borrowed nearly £15 billion last month despite its painful austerity measures, official figures are set to reveal.

This would be £1 billion lower than the previous year, putting Chancellor George Osborne further ahead of a target set by the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) to bring borrowing down by £10 billion to £127 billion in the year to April.

The Office for National Statistics is expected to reveal that public sector net borrowing, excluding financial interventions such as bank bail-outs, fell to £14.9 billion in December.

Economists believe the budget cuts, which are increasingly coming into force, will have moderated spending in the month.

And the Government's tax haul is expected to have proved robust because there will be a lag period before the deterioration in the economy shows up in the figures.

The Chancellor's task was made easier in November when the OBR effectively moved the goalposts by reducing his target by £5 billion amid fears over the state of the economy.

Although December's figures are expected to confirm the Chancellor has moved further ahead of his target, he is expected to battle tougher circumstances in the final few months of the financial year.

Many economists expect that official GDP figures for the final quarter of 2011 to be released on Wednesday will reveal that the economy has slipped into modest decline and the economy is set to worsen in the early 2012.

Victoria Cadman, an economist at Investec Securities, said: "The Government now looks set to have a comfortable buffer in place which it can eat into if borrowing requirements creep up in the rest of the fiscal year.

"The Government may well need to call this cushion into play with the UK economy, on our forecasts, now back in recession, with consequences for the Exchequer receipts and spending demand."

© 2012 Press Association

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