‘Fixing’ the public sector finances has suppressed the economy by almost £100bn, around £1,500 for every woman, man and child this year alone. Today’s public sector finance release shows we’re on course for the smallest government deficit – difference between public spending and revenue – since 2001. What they don’t show is the economic damage it has caused to get here. January is a bumper month. Midnight on the 31st is the deadline for self-employed tax returns, meaning that a backlog of receipts always flow into government coffers at this time of year. It’s for this reason that there has been a January surplus ever since 2010, and this year receipts exceeded expenditure by an estimated £14.9 billion in the month.