'Terrifying!' Sunak's borrowing hits 14.5% of GDP at £303billion – highest level since WW2

Official figures show the Government borrowed £303.1billion in the 2020/21 financial year, as the Chancellor flexed the public purse to help weather the effects of the pandemic. This equates to 14.5 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), with the Office for National Statistics (ONS) saying it marked the highest annual total since 1946 - when comparable records began. As Britain emerged from the end of the war, the deficit hit 15.2 percent of GDP.

It is a rise from a deficit of £57 billion in the tax year ending March 2020.

The country now has a net debt of £2.14trillion - the highest proportion of GDP since the 1960s.

Political commentator Darren Grimes described the figures as "terrifying". 

The level of borrowing came well under the £335billion predicted by the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) last month.

Since the first lockdown, Rishi Sunak has sought to inject vast sums of money into the economy to help prevent mass bankruptcies and unemployment.

Throughout the 2020/21 financial year, Mr Sunak was forced to make 15 separate announcements discussing the UK economy.

During this period he spent at least £280billion on tackling the crisis.

The money went towards the NHS and new schemes such as Test and Trace, Eat Out to Help Out, and the job retention scheme.

His job retention scheme has proved widely popular, and allowed firms to furlough staff while the Government paid 80 percent of wages up to £2,500 per month.

The furlough scheme was first announced in March 2020, when the Chancellor unveiled a series of financial measures to help companies and employees affected by the national lockdown.

Due to the introduction of a second and third national lockdown and the continued economic uncertainty, the furlough scheme has been extended until the end of September 2021.

When announcing the extension Mr Sunak said: “Our package of support for businesses and workers continues to be one of the most generous and effective in the world – helping our economy to recover and protecting livelihoods across the country.

“We know the premium businesses place on certainty, so it is right that we enable businesses to plan ahead regardless of the path the virus takes, which is why we’re providing certainty and clarity by extending this support, as well as implementing our Plan for Jobs.”

The furlough scheme has protected over 11 million jobs across the UK, with more than one million business accession loans to help them through the crisis.

The scheme is estimated to have cost the taxpayer £58billion, according to data from last month.

Despite today's announcement, the UK economy is showing some early signs of recovery as lockdown starts to ease.

Separate ONS figures released show retail sales are soaring, since shops were allowed to reopen from April 12.

Volumes rose 5.4 percent compared with February, with fashion seeing a huge jump of 17.5 percent.

Other non-food sales were also up 13.4 percent.

Fashion retailer Primark saw record sales last week, as the store-only shop was allowed to welcome customers once more.

As a result the company, owned by Associated British Foods, has said it will repay the £121million in furlough money claimed from the Government.

Chief executive George Weston said the repayments would be made as he was confident stores will become cash generative following the easing of restrictions in England and Wales, where 40 percent of Primark selling space is located.

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