UK public sector borrowing doubles in November

UK public sector borrowing more than doubled in November following government measures to shield households and businesses from soaring energy prices and higher debt interest payments.

Public sector net borrowing hit £22bn last month, £13.9bn more than in the same month last year and the highest November borrowing since monthly records began in 1993, according to data published by the Office for National Statistics on Wednesday.

The figure was also higher than the £13bn forecast by economists polled by Reuters. Borrowing had been on a downward trend for more than a year until the autumn, having benefited from the reopening of the economy and the end of government Covid-19 support, but it is rising again.

The Energy Price Guarantee for households and the Energy Bill Support Scheme for businesses both took effect in October and weighed on public finances.

Like the UK, most countries in Europe have adopted fiscal measures to help consumers and businesses deal with the surge in energy costs that followed Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February.

As a result, UK public sector total expenditure was £98.9bn, £13.5bn more than in the same month last year. Central government debt interest payable was £7.3bn in November, £2.4bn more than in the same month last year and the highest November figure since monthly records began in April 1997.

Last month, the Office for Budget Responsibility, the UK’s fiscal watchdog forecast that public sector borrowing would soar to £177bn in the fiscal year ending in March, up from £99bn forecast in March 2022 when the impact of the higher energy prices was not yet taken into account.

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt said: “We have a clear plan to help halve inflation next year, but that requires some tough decisions to put our public finances back on a sustainable footing.” 

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