Magazine article Public Finance

Numbers Game

Magazine article Public Finance

Numbers Game

Article excerpt

The Office for Budget Responsibility's revised borrowing estimates, announced with December's Autumn Statement, already look highly ambitious since the latest public finance figures were published.

Borrowing in December reached £15.4bn, compared with £14.8bn in the same month in the previous year. Excluding the transfer of Royal Mail pension assets, this brings total borrowing for the first nine months of 2012/13 to £106.Sbn.

The OBR's borrowing estimate for the year as a whole is £108.5bn, which would leave only £2bn available for borrowing over the three months to March 2013.

It is still possible to achieve this, given that the highest number of government receipts usually occur in January. Two one-off items will also boost public coffers over the next few months: the transfer of the Asset Purchase Facility proceeds (£11.5bn) and the 4G spectrum auction (£3.5bn).

But many analysts are sceptical that the target will be achieved. Some are even speculating that the UK could lose its AAA credit rating. …

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