By Jonathan Davies

The taxpayer now owns less than a quarter of Lloyds Banking Group after the government sold a further £500 million worth of shares, bringing its stake below 24%.

23.9% of Lloyds Banking Group is now owned by the government.

The news comes in the week that the Group is expected to announce that it will pay its first dividend to shareholders since 2008 and reward its top management figures with a bonus pool of £25m.

The body that controls the taxpayer's stake in Lloyds had already said that will continue to sell off small numbers of shares with a view to reducing its stake to 20% by the time of the general election.

The Chancellor George Osborne said that latest £500m sale means the government has received £8bn from share sales so far. The UK government put £20bn into Lloyds during the financial crisis, in return for a 43% share.

It means the government will have to make £12bn from just over half of its initial stake to have no lost money.

George Osborne said: “This is further progress in returning Lloyds Banking Group to private ownership, reducing our national debt and getting taxpayers’ money back. The trading plan and its success are only made possible by our long-term economic plan, which is delivering a more secure and resilient economy.”