By Jonathan Davies

The government has sold another £500 million worth of Lloyds Banking Group shares, reducing its stake to less than 23%.

The Treasury gained the same amount from another share sale in February, which took its stake below 25%.

The government took a 40% stake in Lloyds after a £20bn bailout at the height of the financial crisis. And UK Financial Investments (UKFI), the body set up to manage the Treasury's stakes in banks following the bailouts, has regained £8.5bn in share sales so far.

"These sales are part of our plan to return Lloyds to the private sector and get taxpayers' money back," Chancellor George Osborne said in a statement.

"The proceeds will be used to reduce the national debt."

In December, UKFI launched a plan to sell all of the government's stake in Lloyds Banking Group. If the plan succeeds, the taxpayer will no longer have a stake in Lloyds by 30 June.

Neither the Treasury nor UKFI have released how much each share has been sold for so far. But the Treasury has said that it has received more than the average 73.6p per share price it paid.