Brown gets birthday gift. By Dawn Smith

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Gordon Brown, who celebrated his birthday this week, will be raising a glass to the latest public finance figures, which show the public sector current budget was in surplus by 15.3 billion last month (3 billion higher than January last year), while net lending was 12.6 billion (up from 8.8 billion in January 2005).

The perky January figures, released on Monday by the National Statistics Office, mean that for the financial year to date, the public sector current budget is in deficit by 7.8 billion, and public sector net borrowing stands at 29.8 billion. As a result, the Chancellor could be on target to meet his pre-budget report forecasts for this financial year. He's aiming for a public sector current deficit of 10.6 billion; and public sector net borrowing of 37 billion.

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