The Treasury borrowed the third-highest sum for any month on record in August, according to official figures – as the chancellor prepares to unleash his latest support for the coronavirus-hit economy.
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) reported that public sector net borrowing, excluding the effects of bank bailouts, was estimated to have hit £35.9bn last month – the highest sum ever recorded for an August.
The ONS said it took borrowing in the first five months of the financial year to £173.7bn – another record for the period since records began in 1993.
The sobering figures were released just a day after Rishi Sunak revealed a new package of measures to support jobs and businesses through the winter months as virus restrictions are tightened UK-wide to control infection rates.
It will help those in “viable” jobs who are back at work, but only provide a top-up in wage support to cover reduced hours.
Separate ONS figures released on Thursday estimated that 12% of the workforce were on partial leave or remained on full furlough earlier this month.
There was growing evidence of disquiet in the government’s own ranks.
Tory MP John Redwood took to Twitter to register his own protest.
— John Redwood (@johnredwood) September 25, 2020
Mr Sunak has repeatedly warned that not every business or job can be saved as he moves to provide more incentives to keep people in work and the economic recovery on track despite the deepened virus restrictions.
He has argued it would be “fundamentally wrong” for people to be kept in jobs that can only exist due to state funding but has declined to say which sectors are likely to be lost.