London | Public sector borrowing amounted to 303.1 billion in the fiscal year ended in March in the UK, a record since the end of World War II when these data began to be recorded, due massive government aid to cushion the shock of the pandemic.
This represents 14.5% of gross domestic product, the highest share since March 1946 when it peaked at 15.2%.
This is 246 billion pounds more than a year earlier, the National Statistics Office (ONS) said on Friday, but 24.3 billion less than the public budget forecast body OBR predicted.
In addition, UK government tax revenue reached £ 523.6 billion for the year ended March, £ 34.2 billion less than in the previous year “due to a notable drop in taxes linked to production such as VAT, tax on commercial buildings or that on fuel, ”explains the ONS.
The UK is one of the countries hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic with at least 127,327 dead.
The ONS also indicated on Friday that retail sales continued to rebound in March with an increase of 5.4% compared to the previous month, in particular thanks to purchases of clothing in view of the lifting of restrictions.
In February, retail sales had already recovered with an increase of 2.1% after falling in January due to the return to strict containment in the country at the end of December.
Schools reopened on March 8, followed by authorization to meet outside six at the end of last month, then reopen non-essential businesses and restaurants or bars outside on April 12. It will be necessary to wait until the end of June at least for the total lifting of the restrictions.
“While a 17.5% month-on-month growth in clothing,” one of the sectors whose sales collapsed due to the pandemic, “is substantial, the volume of clothing sales remains 41.5% lower than February 2020 ”, before the full shock of the pandemic, specifies the ONS.
Nurseries and florists were also among the sectors that saw their sales increase in March, the British passion for gardening having further accentuated during months of confinement.
Finally, the lifting of the travel ban also resulted in a rebound in fuel sales, notes the ONS.
“After months of languishing in jogs, consumers have been looking for new outfits with the prospect of going out again,” commented Susannah Streeter, analyst at Hargreaves Landsdown.
The elderly have also spent a lot on mobility equipment, “the vaccination program having given them the confidence to venture out of their homes,” she adds.