UK borrowing: less terrible than forecast

Step by step, the UK is set to emerge from lockdown.

Progress is being helped by one of the world's fastest vaccination rollouts.

Now it looks like that might be doing something to help public finances too.

Borrowing has piled up as finance minister Rishi Sunak pours money into stimulus measures:

"I said I would do whatever it takes. I have done and I will do so."

But figures out Friday (March 19) show the budget deficit growing less than expected.

In February the country borrowed 19.1 billion pounds, or about 26.6 billion dollars.

That's a record for the month, but a couple of billion less than economists had forecast.

Unless there's a new surge in March, the annual figure should also now come in below expectations.

Adding to the optimism were other numbers showing a leap in consumer confidence.

This month's GfK index hit a one-year high, with people seemingly starting to believe a recovery will benefit them.

Responding to Friday's borrowing numbers, Sunak said extra spending and tax cuts had been the right thing to do.

But he says the focus will turn to fixing public finances.

In his recent budget statement the finance minister set out plans for spending cuts and tax rises as part of that process.