Pace of growth slowing for UK plc

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Britain’s economy grew by 2.6 per cent in 2014 but the pace of expansion slowed more sharply than expected in the last three months of the year, official figures showed today.

The annual figure is the best since 2007, before the recession, and indicates that the UK is likely to have been the world’s fastest growing major economy last year.

But gross domestic product (GDP) rose by just 0.5 per cent in the fourth quarter, the weakest level in a year, weighed down by a construction sector which shrunk at its worst pace for more than two years.

The growth figure for 2014 was widely expected, though falls short of the three per cent forecast last month by the independent Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR).

It beats 2013’s figure of 1.7 per cent and matches the 2.6 per cent recorded in 2007.

US growth figures are due to be published on Friday. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) estimates its growth at 2.4 per cent.

UK GDP is now 3.4 per cent higher than the pre-recession peak at the start of 2008, according to the ONS.