WASHINGTON The government will release a budget update and new fiscal forecasts on December 4 and the focus will remain on reducing the country's deficit, Chancellor George Osborne said on Friday.
"Britain continues to have some very serious public challenges that have to be addressed," Osborne told reporters during a visit to Washington for an annual meeting of the International Monetary Fund.
Britain's budget deficit widened sharply during the global financial crisis but has come down by about a third as the economy improved.
"It's still too big," Osborne said.
On September 30 he told members of his Conservative Party that he would return Britain to a budget surplus during the next parliament, due to run between 2015 and 2020, as long as the economy continued to mend.
Earlier this week, the IMF raised its forecasts for Britain's economic growth by more than for any other big advanced economy. Also this week, British business leaders urged Osborne to do more to ensure the recovery gains speed.
In his comments on Friday, Osborne declined to say how the improved outlook for public finances might influence fiscal policy. But he said the government's focus was on reducing the national debt.
"When we've got resource available, we have got to make sure that we are doing what we can to reduce our deficit and our debt," he said, citing the 3.2 billion-pound ($5.10 billion) sale of state-owned shares in bank Lloyds last month.
The government has also sold a majority stake in the postal service, Royal Mail, which made its market debut on Friday.
Britain's government gives an update on public accounts in November or December each year while the budget is usually announced in March. The so-called Autumn Statement includes fiscal forecasts produced by the independent Office of Budget Responsibility.
(Reporting by Jason Lange in Washington, writing by William Schomberg in London; Editing by Susan Fenton)
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