British state borrowing jumped in December, official data showed on Tuesday, stoking renewed speculation over the country's top-level "AAA" credit rating, according to economists.
Public sector net borrowing -- the government's preferred measure of the budget deficit -- climbed to £15.4 billion ($24.4 billion, 18.3 billion euros) last month, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said in a statement.
That was worse than market expectations for public borrowing of £15.2 billion in December, according to analysts polled by Dow Jones Newswires, and compared with borrowing of £14.8 billion in December 2011.
The data excludes the temporary effects of financial interventions such as bank bailouts.
The ONS added that borrowing rose last month as public expenditure outstripped taxation receipts -- despite British finance minister George Osborne's ongoing austerity measures.
Total expenditure grew by 5.4 percent but with tax receipts climbed by just 3.6 percent in December.
"The December public finance data will do little to deter high and mounting expectations that at least one of the credit rating agencies will strip the UK of its AAA rating within the next few months," said IHG Global Insight economist Howard Archer.
"Indeed, all three of the major credit rating agencies now have the UK's AAA rating on negative outlook."