George Osborne is on schedule to meet his full year target for cutting the budget deficit, after a raft of self-assessment tax returns made February’s deficit the smallest since 2008.
The deficit last month was £57.5bn, compared to £68.3bn last February and a peak of £95.2bn in 2009. In February 2008 it was £38.5bn.
The fillip provided by the tax returns was considerable: at £4.2bn, £1.8bn more was paid in February 2015 compared to February 2014.
Tax receipts have continued to be a concern for the government and have been one reason that plans to cut the deficit, the difference between public sector spending and borrowing – have proved hard to meet.
However, the latest figures now mean that borrowing for the financial year to the end of March is now under where is was last year. Osborne’s target is to borrow £92.5bn this financial year, and he is currently on £81.8bn. Last March the government borrowed £7.9bn and the year before £11.3bn. Either figure would put him in the black.
Labour will, of course, argue that Osborne originally promised to eliminate the budget deficit by the end of this parliament, and then moved the goalposts. A UK economy running a surplus still looks some way off: it won't be achieved until the 2017-2018 financial year, according to the OBR.