The British economy grew by 1.9 per cent in 2013, its fastest rate in six years, a result the government was quick to claim as proof that its policies have led to a turnaround.

"There's plenty more to do but we're heading in the right direction," Chancellor George Osborne said.

The U.K. economy has not yet reached the size it was before the 2008 financial crisis, but it has grown in each of the last four quarters, according to figures from the Office for National Statistics.

The economic recovery is broadly based with manufacturing growing more than other sectors, and that's evidence that the long-term economic plan is working, Osborne told the BBC.

"We've learnt our lesson and what you see today ... is a rebalancing of the British economy."

Economists were more cautious. Fourth quarter growth came in at just 0.7 per cent, slower than in the previous quarter and was powered mainly by the high-flying services sector.

Last week, Bank of England governor Mark Carney warned of a substantial amount of "spare" capacity in the British economy, which he estimated is about 20 per cent smaller than it would have been had it not struggled through a five-year recession.

He said there is not much need for an interest rate rise in the near term.

Osbourne estimates 450,000 jobs were created in the U.K. in 2013 and the unemployment rate sits at 7.1 per cent, much better than most of its European neighbours.

Labour finance critic Ed Balls said the slight recovery is “long overdue” after three damaging years of flatlining.

"But, for working people facing a cost-of-living crisis, this is still no recovery at all,” he said.

The British economy is forecast to expand by 2.4 per cent in 2014, according to an estimate by the International Monetary Fund, but some economists predict GDP growth could be even stronger. 

With files from Canadian Press