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The UK government’s deficit fell to its lowest level since the start of the financial crisis in the last financial year, but was still slightly higher than official forecasts, according to data released today.

Public sector net borrowing excluding taxpayer-backed banks, decreased by £20bn in the year to March 2017, according to the Office for National Statistics, to a total of £52bn.

The Office for Budget Responsibility had predicted a full-year reduction of £20.3bn only last month, but the target was missed as borrowing jumped at the end of the period.

Monthly borrowing rose to £5.1bn in March compared to the £3.1bn predicted by economists.

The government’s total debt pile excluding the banks grew to 86.6 per cent of gross domestic product, 3 percentage points higher than in March 2016. The debt to GDP ratio is expected to peak at 88.8 per cent next year, according to figures released alongside last month’s budget.

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