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Government borrowing

Government borrowed £271 billion during April to January 2020/21 according to the ONS’s provisional estimate. This is £222 billion more than during April to January 2019/20. The coronavirus pandemic has had a significant effect on the public finances.

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

Public sector net borrowing, % GDP

Government debt

At the end of January 2021, public sector net debt exceeded £2.1 trillion and was equivalent to 97.9% of GDP. A year ago, at the end of January 2020, the debt-to-GDP ratio was 83.2%.

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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