By Jonathan Davies

Growth in the UK services sector rose to an eight-month high in April, according to a closely watched survey.

The Markit/CIPS purchasing managers' index (PMI) score hit 59.5 in April, up from 58.9 in March. Any figure above 50 indicates growth, and it is the strongest growth since August 2014.

April marks the 28th consecutive month of growth in the sector - the longest stretch for seven years.

Markit said the businesses linked growing activity to new business, an improving economic picture and warm weather.

The UK's construction sector output fell to a 22-month low in April, but today's figures are particularly important - the services sector accounts for roughly 70% of UK GDP.

Chris Williamson, chief economist at Markit, said: “Fears of the economy slumping amid election jitters are allayed as an upturn in service sector activity has helped offset sharp slowdowns in both manufacturing and construction.

“The PMI surveys suggest the economy is showing robust growth momentum, expanding at a rate of 0.8% at the start of the second quarter. As such, it looks like the economy has rebounded from the weakness seen at the start of the year. But there are warning lights flashing about the sustainability of growth, and any new government is faced with the challenge of boosting business confidence and
reviving investment in particular."

Jeremy Cook, chief economist at the international payments company, World First, said: Following a manufacturing release worried about a strong pound and a construction sector holding off on spending until after the election, the services sector has brought some positivity back to the UK’s economic picture.

“Wages are crucial for the economy moving forward, and the sector that employs the most people in the UK is starting to report a pick-up in compensations for workers. In a what may be a last minute boon for the Tories, businesses reported higher activity as a result of improved economic confidence - and better weather. No doubt someone with a rosette will take credit for that soon too."