Government borrowing leaps and retail sales drop by much more than expected | Business News

The latest official data on the state of the public finances and consumer spending makes for grim reading as the country awaits its next leader.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) reported that public sector net borrowing came in at £20bn last month – £3bn more than economists had expected.

The report pointed to a record debt interest payment total of £7.7bn for the month of September – much of which could be attributed to rising inflation as payments are linked to the RPI measure.

Government spending increased by £5.8bn to £79.3bn as a result of the jump in interest, the ONS said.

It separately revealed that retail sales volumes fell 1.4% on the previous month.

That was far worse than the 0.5% decline that economists had forecast.

It was likely to reflect not only the deteriorating cost of living crisis that has squeezed consumer budgets this year but also the impact of store closures for the funeral of the Queen.

The figures were released against a growing backdrop of gloom for the economy – made worse in recent weeks by the market chaos that followed the government’s tax giveaway mini-budget in September.

While the measures have now been largely overturned by the new chancellor Jeremy Hunt, his medium-term fiscal plan due on Halloween will now fall under the oversight of a new PM following the resignation of the ill-fated mini-budget’s architect, Liz Truss.

The Tories expect their new leader to be in place in a week’s time – days before Mr Hunt is due to outline how he plans to balance the books while maintaining a measure of support for households and businesses at the same time.

A survey by the City watchdog found that almost 32 million people, or 60% of adults, were already finding it a heavy burden or somewhat of a burden to pay their bills because of the growing cost of living crisis.

The Financial Conduct Authority’s financial lives survey, which was taken between February and June, said the total was up six million from 2020, when the economy went into lockdown to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.

Another closely watched survey, compiled by GfK, found that confidence among British consumers remained close to the lowest level on record last month.