UK public borrowing totalled £31.696 billion in April, the first month of the new financial year, down from £47.315 billion a year earlier when the public finances first felt the full impact of the Covid pandemic, official figures showed today.

Economists polled by Reuters had on average expected £30.9 billion.

The fall in borrowing in April compared with a year earlier is the first annual decline in borrowing since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, but last month's borrowing is still huge by normal standards.

In the financial year to the end of March, Britain borrowed £300.3 billion, equivalent to 14.3% of gross domestic product and the highest peacetime deficit on record, the Office for National Statistics said.

This represents an downward revision from last month's estimate of 2020/21 borrowing equivalent to 14.5% of GDP.

British government budget forecasters predicted in March that borrowing would fall to 10.3% of GDP this financial year.

Public sector net debt in April stood at £2.171 trillion or 98.5% of GDP, the ONS said.