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Osborne's budget challenge deepens as public finances worsen in November

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British public finances unexpectedly worsened in November, adding to the already tough challenge for finance minister George Osborne to meet this year's target for cutting the country's budget deficit.

[LONDON] British public finances unexpectedly worsened in November, adding to the already tough challenge for finance minister George Osborne to meet this year's target for cutting the country's budget deficit.

Britain's headline public borrowing rose to 14.2 billion pounds in November, 10 per cent higher than in the same month last year, way above economists' forecasts.

The Office for National Statistics said last November's figures had been helped by around 1.1 billion pounds paid in fines by financial institutions - relating to a scandal in foreign currency trading - which were not repeated this year.

For the first eight months of the 2015/16 tax year, public sector net borrowing was 8.9 per cent lower than between April and November 2014 at 66.9 billion pounds, already close to Osborne's target for the full 2015/16 financial year.

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Osborne is aiming to turn Britain's budget deficit into a surplus by the end of the decade, making his fix of the public finances the top priority of the government's economic policies.

He has struggled to make headway in recent months but Britain's official budget forecasters said in November they expected the deficit to fall more sharply in the remainder of the financial year than it has done so far.

The Office for Budget Responsibility set the government a new, slightly lower borrowing target of 68.9 billion pounds for the 2015/16 financial year, not counting the impact of a recent decision to include housing associations as public entities.

Some economists said before Tuesday's data that Osborne would come in 10 billion pounds above the target if borrowing continued to fall at the same pace in the period between April and October.

REUTERS

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