REUTERS-- Neil Collins is a Reuters columnist. The views expressed are his own --

Standard & Poor's could have chosen a better day to kick the British economy, by placing the UK onto "negative outlook", the usual precursor to a downgrade of S&P's rating of an issuer's debt.

The move came minutes before the Debt Management Office closed its massive auction of 5 billion pounds of 2014 stock, and minutes after the release of figures showing the Public Sector Net Borrowing Requirement leaping to 8.5 billion pounds in April, a sum which not long ago would have been considered high for a whole year.

Economist Howard Archer at Global Insight immediately called the figure "dire, starting the new fiscal year off as it is highly likely to continue."

S&P, meanwhile, now fears that the net general government debt burden "could approach 100 percent of GDP and remain near that level in the medium term."

It's hard to describe the UK public finances as anything other than a disaster area. The forecasts made in last month's Budget looked optimistic within days, and even these require the DMO to borrow 220 billion pounds this financial year, or almost a billion pounds every working day.