UK Government borrowing continued to surge in March, partly due to the cost of supporting households with their energy bills.

Borrowing - the difference between spending and tax income - was £21.5billion, last month, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) reported this morning.

The BBC says that is the second-highest March borrowing figure since monthly records began in 1993.

Meanwhile, borrowing for the financial year ending March 31 was estimated at £139.2billion.

That was £18.1billion more than the previous year, and the fourth-highest annual figure since records began in 1946.

However, it was less than the £152.4billion predicted by the government's independent forecaster, the Office for Budget Responsibility, at the time of last month's Budget.

Inevitable consequences

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt said: "These numbers reflect the inevitable consequences of borrowing eye-watering sums to help families and businesses through a pandemic and (Vladimir) Putin's energy crisis.

"We were right to do so because we have managed to keep unemployment at a near-record low and provided the average family more than £3,000 in cost-of-living support this year and last."

However, he said the UK could not "borrow forever" and had a clear plan to get debt falling.

The ONS said a rise in tax receipts in March was offset by higher spending on energy support for households and businesses.

The government has also been borrowing more to cover the cost of interest on its debt, which has been rising due to inflation.

All in all, the ONS said public-sector net debt at the end of March 2023 was £2.53trillion - equivalent to around 99.6% of the value of the whole UK economy.

That is a level not seen since the early 1960s.

FTSE 100

The UK's top share index, the FTSE 100, was down 33 points at 7,878 shortly after opening this morning, following yesterday's one-point loss.

Brent crude futures were ahead 0.06% at $82.78 a barrel.

Companies reporting today

  • Full-year results: Whitbread
  • Half-year results: Associated British Foods
  • Q1 results: Alphabet, McDonald's, PepsiCo, Verizon
  • Q3 results: Microsoft
  • Trading update: Nestle

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