While consumers may be racking up the debt as Christmas creeps closer, chancellor Philip Hammond has managed to keep a lid on the UK's public sector borrowing.
Statistics released today by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) revealed that public sector net borrowing fell by £0.2bn to £8.7bn in November 2017 – the lowest November total since 2007.
According to Pantheon Macroeconomics, borrowing also beat the consensus estimates of £9bn.
"The fall in public borrowing in November was driven by a five per cent year-over-year rise in current receipts, which exceeded the 4.1 per cent average rate seen in the first seven months of the fiscal year," explained Pantheon's Samuel Tombs.
The pickup, however, largely reflected a jump in receipts from tobacco taxes and a squeeze on tax credits.
This means the current year-to-date net borrowing total, from April to November, is the lowest in a decade and £3.1bn down on the same period last year.
If this continues, the government will borrow around £42.7bn in the current financial year according to Tombs – well below the Office for Budget Responsibility’s November Budget forecast of £49.9bn.
However, he added the trend was likely to deteriorate due to payments to the EU and central government investing.
The total public sector net debt, excluding public sector banks and the Bank of England, was £1.57 trillion at the end of November – down £23.5bn and equivalent to 76.7 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP).
Part of this was due to a £65.5bn reduction as English housing associations were reclassified from the public to the private sector. The ONS said that this would lead to a £0.3bn per month drop in public sector net borrowing.
But net debt including the Bank of England continued to climb, as the total rose £72.2bn on November last year to hit £1.73 trillion or 84.6 per cent of GDP.
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