London: Finance minister Philip Hammond missed his target for bringing down Britain’s budget deficit in the 2018/19 financial year, data showed on Wednesday, even as the shortfall fell to its lowest in 17 years.
Opening the way for a possible relaxation of Hammond’s tight grip on spending, borrowing in the 12 months to the end of March totalled £24.7 billion ($31.9 billion), 41 per cent less than in the 2017/18 tax year, report agencies.However, the deficit was higher than the forecast of £22.8 billion made by Britain’s independent budget office last month.
Wednesday’s numbers were provisional and could be revised. As a share of economic output, the deficit fell to 1.2 per cent, its lowest since the 12 months to March 2002 and down from nearly 10 per cent during the depths of the global banking crisis a decade ago, the Office for National Statistics said.
Following publication of the figures, Hammond said the government looked on track to meet its goal of reducing overall government debt levels as a percentage of the economy by 2021 and keeping the core budget deficit below 2 per cent. “The key thing for me is that we are, probably for the first time in a decade, in a position where we have choices,” Hammond told lawmakers in parliament’s Treasury Committee.