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UK debt levels hit new highs not seen since 1960

The UK’s national debt hit a record £2.06 trillion at the end of September, up £259.6 billion in six months, according to new data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

It pushed borrowing up to 103.5% of gross domestic product (GDP) after the public sector borrowed around £36.1 billion in September – pushing the debt to GDP ratio to the highest levels since 1960.

This was £28.4 billion more than the same month a year ago and the third-highest month of borrowing since records began in 1993, officials added.

At the end of September there was £1.741 trillion of central government bonds, or gilts, in circulation to prop up the falling tax take and cover the huge expenditure related to Covid-19 spending.

Central government tax receipts were £37.7 billion in September – £6 billion less than in September 2019, with large falls in value added tax (VAT), business rates and corporation tax receipts, the ONS added.

The Government is expected to have spent £77.8 billion in September on day-to-day activities – £18.1 billion more than in September 2019 – including £4.9 billion on the furlough scheme and £1 billion on the self-employment support scheme payouts.

Borrowing in the first six months of this financial year – April to September – is estimated at £208.5 billion, £174.5 billion more than in the same period last year and the highest borrowing in any April to September period since records began in 1993. Each and every month set a new record, the ONS added.

Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, said: “Whilst it’s clear that the coronavirus pandemic has had a significant impact on our public finances, things would have been far worse had we not acted in the way we did to protect millions of livelihoods.

“I’ve been clear that our enduring priority is to protect as many jobs and businesses as possible through this pandemic, which is the fiscally responsible thing to do.

“Through our comprehensive Plan for Jobs we’re protecting, supporting and creating millions of jobs across the country.

“Over time and as the economy recovers, the Government will take the necessary steps to ensure the long-term health of the public finances.”

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