Business

Sales are falling and debt is rising for the virus-hit UK retail sector

Official data showed, Friday, that retail sales in Britain fell and government borrowing rose in January after the country returned to lockdown due to the Coronavirus pandemic.

The Office for National Statistics said in a statement that retail sales fell 8.2% last month compared to December, the biggest drop since April 2020.

The Office for National Statistics added: “All sectors witnessed a monthly decrease in sales volumes … except for retail stores and food stores.”

Separate figures from the Office for National Statistics showed that government net borrowing reached 8.8 billion pounds in January, a record high for the month and the first deficit in January in a decade.

Since April 2020, or shortly after the UK’s first virus shutdown, net public sector borrowing has ballooned by £ 270.6 billion.

Total net public sector debt is £ 2.1 trillion, or about 98% of Britain’s total annual economic output.

Finance Minister Rishi Sunak reiterated on Friday the need for Britain to return to a “more sustainable situation” as it prepares for its annual budget next month.

The UK’s debt has risen over the past year, largely as the government pays the bulk of the salaries of millions of private sector workers.

Sunak said in a statement that investing more than 280 billion pounds to protect jobs, businesses and livelihoods under the leave scheme “is the thing that is financially responsible.”

But he added, “It is only right that once our economy starts to recover, we should look to returning public finances to a more sustainable level and I will always be honest with the British people on how to do this.”

The British economy shrank by a record 9.9% last year, but the rapid spread of vaccines boosted expectations.

The Brexit turmoil has also hampered activity ahead of the final Brexit.

Much of the UK returned to lockdown in early January to curb the changing Covid-19 strain that was considered more transmissible.

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