UK government sees surprise budget surplus in January

Around 100,000 civil servants will strike on 1 February in a worsening dispute over pay, jobs and conditions, the Public and Commercial Services union has announced.

The UK government recorded a surprise surplus in its finances in January despite “substantial spending” to help households with energy bills and one-off payments to the EU.

The government spent less than it received in tax in the month, resulting in a surplus of £5.4bn.

Economists had forecast borrowing of £7.9bn, but record self-assessed income tax receipts led to the surplus.

The Office for National Statistics reported self-assessment income tax receipts of 21.9 billion pounds, the highest January figure since monthly records began and 5.5 billion pounds more than last year.

The figures, which are not adjusted for inflation, showed the tax receipts were offset by 6.7 billion pounds of interest payable on index-linked government bonds, the highest January total on record.

“Getting debt down will require some tough choices, but it is crucial to reduce the amount spent on debt interest so we can protect our public services,” finance minister Jeremy Hunt said in response to the data.