Figures released this morning show that George Osborne is on course to miss the Office for Budget Responsibility's public sector borrowing forecast for the financial year.
December's total of £7.5bn took overall borrowing this year to £74.2bn, already past the OBR's projection of £68.9bn. The outlook was not helped by a worse-than-expected November, which saw the government borrow £14.2bn.
Although the Treasury is set for a January boost as people file self-employment income tax receipts, Osborne now looks certain to fall short of the target.
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However, the chancellor can point to an improvement in the overall spending picture, with last month's borrowing £4.3bn down on the same time a year ago and total borrowing £11bn lower than for the same period in 2014-15.
Osborne's tone has shifted notably in recent weeks, with repeated warnings about the "dangerous cocktail" of risks facing the UK, particularly from slower growth in developing countries such as China.
He will make the same point in a speech to the World Economic Forum in Davos today, while encouraging countries to work together to stave off a global slowdown.
“It adds up to a hazardous mix. But my message today is one of confidence: we can meet these risks and overcome them if we stick to our plan," he will say. "We need to see every shoulder at the wheel. Every country acting as one in search of growth."