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Unexpected Fall In May’s Public Borrowing Numbers

Public sector borrowing fell to £5bn in May, down £2bn from a year earlier, official figures show.

The fall was bigger than expected and brings borrowing for the financial year to date to £11.8bn, £4.1bn less than in the same period in 2017.

At the same time, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) revised down its figure for government borrowing in 2017-18 to £39.5bn.

The total was the lowest annual level of borrowing in 11 years.

The figures come as Chancellor Philip Hammond prepares to reaffirm his promise to reduce public debt, despite Prime Minister Theresa May’s promise of increased spending on the NHS.

In a speech later on Thursday, Mr Hammond will say that taxes must rise, although increases will be implemented in a “fair and balanced way”. As the chancellor grapples with how to raise £20bn of extra spending on the NHS in England by 2023, today’s public finance figures do provide some help.

Borrowing is lower than forecast by the Office for Budget Responsibility in March, giving Philip Hammond a little more “wriggle room” whilst still hitting his target of reducing the deficit – the amount of money the government spends above the amount it gains in revenues from taxes and investment.

The chancellor knows that as the public finances begin to look healthier, the pressure will grow to open the borrowing taps – thereby enabling more spending on not just health, but the police and defence, for example.

Read the full BBC News Article here, along with analysis from the BBC’s Economics Editor, Kamal Ahmed.