Hammond Says Plan Is Still for Balanced U.K. Budget in Mid-2020s

(Bloomberg) -- U.K. Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond hailed an economy “moving in the right direction” after the latest fiscal year saw government borrowing fall to levels last seen before the financial crisis.

Testifying to lawmakers in London Wednesday, Hammond said it remains his ambition to return the budget to balance by the middle of the next decade.

“I’m very satisfied with the trajectory we’ve seen,” he told the House of Commons Treasury Committee. “Borrowing last year returned to pre-crisis levels, all of which points to economy moving in the right direction. I think we’re moving at the right pace for circumstances we currently face.”

Public-sector net borrowing fell to 42.6 billion pounds ($60 billion) in the 12 months through March, the least for 11 years and 2.6 billion pounds lower than the Office for Budget Responsibility predicted just last month. The figures also showed Britain is no longer borrowing to finance its day-to-day spending for the first time in 16 years.

Asked about productivity, Hammond said it was too early to conclude that things are improving after growth in output per hour picked up in the final two quarters of 2017.

“If we get another two quarters of similar figures we could draw positive conclusions, but I want to be cautious at this stage,” he said.

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