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Government borrowing

Government borrowed £208 billion in the first half of 2020/21 according to the ONS’s provisional estimate. This is £174 billion more than during the first half of 2019/20. The unprecedented level of borrowing reflects the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

These provisional figures contain some forecast data and are very uncertain. They are likely to be revised in the coming months.

Public sector net borrowing, % GDP

Government debt

At the end of September 2020, public sector net debt exceeded £2 trillion and was equivalent to 103.5% of GDP. A year ago, at the end of September 2019, the debt-to-GDP ratio was 80.5% of GDP. Prior to the pandemic, the debt-to-GDP ratio last exceeded 100% in the financial year ending March 1961.

The Library briefing Coronavirus: Effect on the economy and public finances looks at the effect of coronavirus on the public finances.

Public sector net debt, % GDP

Definitions and notes

The ONS’s figures for 2019/20 are 2020/21 provisional: they’re not final figures and may be revised as provisional data are replaced with final audited data.

Net borrowing – often described as the deficit – is the difference between what the government spends and what it receives in taxes over a particular time period.

Net debt is the total amount that the public sector owes – it is largely the stock of past borrowing.

All figures exclude public sector banks.


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