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UK government borrowing falls in January



Government borrowing fell in January after the UK recorded the largest public finance surplus for any January since 2008.
The Office for National Statistics said the January surplus, excluding banks, rose by £1bn to £11.2bn compared with last year.
Surpluses are usually recorded in January because of the high level of tax receipts in the month.
Other figures showed retail sales growth rose much faster than expected.
Although the monthly borrowing figure was the highest for eight years, it was below the £12.6bn forecast by economists.
Government borrowing for the current tax year year, from April 2015 to January, was £66.5bn - £10.6bn lower than at the same point in the previous 12 month period.
The Office for Budget Responsibility has forecast that the government will borrow £73.5bn for the financial year to March.
Paul Hollingsworth of Capital Economics said: "This still leaves the Chancellor with some work to do over the next few months if he still wants to meet this forecast. After all, he is left with around £7bn left to borrow in February and March - last year he borrowed almost £15bn."
This month's figures include housing associations for the first time because they were now considered to be under public sector control.
The change has increased borrowing for the financial year from April 2014 to March 2015 by £3.6bn.
Clearance
The ONS said retail sales volumes jumped 2.3% in January compared with December when they fell by 1.4%, leaving them 5.2% higher for the year.
The main contributor to the growth came from non-food retailers, with department stores faring particularly well - perhaps reflecting post-Christmas clearance sales, according to Mr Hollingsworth.
Keith Richardson, managing director retail sector at Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking, said a cold snap last month prompted shoppers to look for winter coats, jumpers and footwear, while bargain-hunters were out in force in the post-Christmas sales.
"Online sales continued to soar, rising 10% year-on-year even as footfall rose, suggesting that those with sophisticated online and mobile operations are now attracting new customers from overseas," he said.