By Jonathan Davies

The government has reduced its stake in Lloyds Banking Group to 17% after selling more shares to investors.

UK Financial Investments (UKFI), the body set up to manage the government's stake in privatised banks, has been gradually selling shares in 2013 to return the bank back to full private ownership.

The bank received a £22.5 billion bailout from the government for a 41% stake during the financial crisis.

The latest sale means that around £11.5 billion has been returned to the taxpayer. And the Chancellor George Osborne is planning to sell a further £9bn worth of shares in 2015/16.

"Today's announcement shows the further progress made in returning Lloyds Banking Group to full private ownership and enabling the taxpayer to get their money back," Lloyds Banking Group said in a statement.

The UKFI "trading plan", which sees government shares sold to big, institutional investors, was due to finish at the end of June. But that has been extended to the end of 2015.

The government has even suggested that shares will be made available to the public during the year.