The UK government’s actions and response to the coronavirus crisis will cost taxpayers £123.2bn, according to an updated estimate from the Office for Budget Responsibility based in London.
That is an increase up from a previous estimate of £103 billion with more than half of the increase due to the rising cost of the government’s scheme to pay wages for temporarily laid off employees.
The latest number takes the overall level of spending close to the annual budget of NHS England – though some of the coronavirus spending is itself accounted for by health service costs.
It means, according to the OBR, that government borrowing is now on course to climb to more than £298bn for the current 2020/21 fiscal year – up from £273bn when previously estimated a month ago.
That would leave debt at 95.8% of GDP.
Much of the extra cost is the result of the government’s decision to extend the furlough scheme, designed to save stricken companies from having to sack workers by paying most of their wages.