Public debt tops £2trn for first time as UK finances feel COVID-19 strain

Public debt has topped £2trn for the first time on record as spending soared in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.

The figure at the end of July was up by £227.6bn compared to the same month last year, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

Meanwhile, the data also showed borrowing had rocketed to a record £150.5bn in the current financial year – £128.4bn more than between April and July last year.

Responding, Chancellor Rishi Sunak, said: “This crisis has put the public finances under significant strain as we have seen a hit to our economy and taken action to support millions of jobs, businesses and livelihoods.

“Without that support things would have been far worse.

“Today’s figures are a stark reminder that we must return our public finances to a sustainable footing over time, which will require taking difficult decisions.

“It is also why we are taking action now to support the growth and jobs which pay for our public services, by helping businesses to reopen safely and, through our plan for jobs, protecting, supporting and creating jobs to ensure that nobody is left without hope.”

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