There were some mildly disappointing public borrowing figures this morning. Although there was a surplus of £4.7 billion it was below the £6 billion surplus for January last year. January is generally a good month for the public finances due to the January 31st deadline for income tax returns.
The total of state borrowing so far this financial year is £90.7 billion – which is £4 billion below the total by this stage a year ago. The Office of Budgetary Responsibility has reduced it’s forecast of state borrowing for this financial year from 119.8 billion to 112.2 billion. That lower forecast is still considered to be realistic.
There was some better news in revisions for earlier months borrowing this financial year meaning £0.7 billion less than previously estimated was borrowed.
For all the talk of savage spending cuts, the ONS Bulletin says:
In January 2014, central government accrued current expenditure was £52.6 billion, which was £0.4 billion, or 0.8%, higher than January 2013, when central government current expenditure was £52.2 billion.
For the period April 2013 to January 2014, central government accrued current expenditure was £534.7 billion, which was £6.8 billion, or 1.3%, higher than the same period the previous year. Within this, net social benefit expenditure was £163.2 billion, which was £1.7 billion, or 1.0%, higher than in the same period in 2012/13.
So the Budget on March 19th may not be all that exciting. There is not much “room” for tax cuts – unless, of course, the Chancellor considers certain tax cuts that would result in increased tax revenues.
We are due to have a balanced budget by 2018/19. Perhaps after that we can start repaying some of the National Debt – which by then it estimated to have reached £1.6 trillion.