Britain’s debt has exceeded £2trillion for the first time ever.
At the end of July, debt was £2.004trillion – £227.6billion more than at the same point last year, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
This is 100.5 per cent of gross domestic product ( GDP ) – an increase of 20.4 percentage points compared with the same point in 2019 – and the first time it has been above 100 per cent since the financial year ending March 1961.
Public sector net borrowing (excluding public sector banks) in July was estimated at £26.7billion – a huge £28.3 billion more than in July 2019 and the fourth-highest borrowing since records began in 1993.
The ONS said the coronavirus pandemic had caused an “unprecedented impact” on borrowing.
Provisional estimates indicate that the £150.5billion borrowed in the first four months of the current financial year (April to July 2020) was almost three times the £56.6billion borrowed in the whole of the previous one.
The news comes as the country’s retail sales soared to pre-pandemic levels in July.
“The coronavirus pandemic continues to have a significant impact on the UK public sector finances,” the ONS said.
“These effects arise from both the introduction of public health measures and from new government policies to support businesses and individuals.”
Samuel Tombs, chief UK economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics, told the BBC that public borrowing remained “on course” to hit its highest share of GDP since the Second World War.
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He told the broadcaster: “Looking ahead, borrowing looks set to jump temporarily in August, as the government makes the second and last Self-Employment Income Support Scheme payment and funds the Eat Out to Help Out scheme.
“Thereafter, it will decline, as the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, which cost £6.9bn to operate in July, is wound down ahead of its closure at the end of October.”