Other commentary from the latest public sector finances data can be found on the following pages:
- Recent and upcoming changes to public sector finance statistics: December 2020
- UK government debt and deficit: September 2020
Public sector net borrowing (excluding public sector banks, PSNB ex) is estimated to have been £34.1 billion in December 2020, £28.2 billion more than in December 2019, which is both the highest December borrowing and the third-highest borrowing in any month since monthly records began in 1993.
Central government tax receipts are estimated to have been £43.6 billion in December 2020 (on a national accounts basis), £1.4 billion less than in December 2019, with notable falls in taxes on production such as Value Added Tax (VAT) and Business Rates.
Central government bodies are estimated to have spent £86.2 billion on day-to-day activities (current expenditure) in December 2020, £26.1 billion more than in December 2019; this growth includes £10.0 billion additional expenditure on coronavirus job support schemes.
Public sector net borrowing (PSNB ex) in the first nine months of this financial year (April to December 2020) is estimated to have been £270.8 billion, £212.7 billion more than in the same period last year and the highest public sector borrowing in any April to December period since records began in 1993.
Public sector net debt excluding public sector banks (PSND ex) rose by £333.5 billion in the first nine months of the financial year to reach £2,131.7 billion at the end of December 2020, or around 99.4% of GDP; this was the highest debt to GDP ratio since the financial year ending 1962.
Central government net cash requirement (excluding UK Asset Resolution Ltd and Network Rail) was £33.4 billion in December 2020, bringing the current financial year-to-December total to £318.1 billion, nearly double the highest cash requirement in any other April to December period since records began in 1984.
General government net borrowing in the first nine months of this financial year (April to December 2020) is estimated to have been around 12.7% of GDP, while general government gross debt stood at around 102.9% of GDP at the end of December 2020; statistics for the general government sector are used for international comparisons and include central and local government only.
In December 2020, the public sector spent more money than it received in taxes and other income, requiring it to borrow £34.1 billion, £28.2 billion more than it borrowed in December 2019.
Table 1 summarises the components of public sector net borrowing (excluding public sector banks) in December 2020 and compares them with the equivalent measures in the same month a year earlier. Additionally, the table presents estimates of the borrowing of public sector banks and the full public sector net borrowing measure.
|Central Government Net Borrowing||5.2||34.0||28.9||559.2|
|Local Government Net Borrowing||1.8||1.5||-0.3||-17.7|
|Public Corporations Net Borrowing||-0.1||0.1||0.2||236.6|
|Public Sector Pensions Net Borrowing||-0.1||-0.1||0.0||-20.3|
|Sub-total: Public Sector Net Borrowing ex BoE and Banks||6.8||35.5||28.7||420.0|
|Bank of England Net Borrowing||-0.9||-1.4||-0.5||-52.1|
|Sub-total: Public Sector Net Borrowing ex¹||5.9||34.1||28.2||478.8|
|Public Sector Banks Net Borrowing||-0.7||-0.7||0.0||0.0|
|Total: Public Sector Net Borrowing||5.2||33.4||28.2||546.9|
Download this table Table 1: Public sector net borrowing.xls .csv
Central government is the largest sub-sector of the public sector. Of the £34.1 billion borrowed by the public sector in December 2020, £34.0 billion was borrowed by central government.
Central government receipts
In December 2020, central government receipts were estimated to have fallen by £0.7 billion compared with December 2019 to £60.2 billion, including £43.6 billion in tax receipts.
Table 2 summarises the components of central government receipts in December 2020 and compares them with the equivalent measures in the same month a year earlier.
|Value Added Tax||12.9||12.0||-0.9||-7.1|
|Stamp Duty (L&P)¹||1.4||1.3||-0.1||-6.9|
|Other taxes on production||3.6||3.1||-0.5||-13.9|
|Pay As You Earn Income Tax||14.2||14.1||0.0||-0.3|
|Self Assessed Income Tax||1.4||2.3||0.9||61.5|
|Other Taxes on Income & wealth²||-0.3||-0.2||0.1||-33.3|
|Compulsory social contributions||12.4||13.2||0.8||6.1|
|Interest & Dividends receipts||0.7||0.4||-0.2||-36.0|
|Total Current Receipts||61.0||60.2||-0.7||-1.2|
Download this table Table 2: Central government current receipts.xls .csv
In the most recent months, tax receipts recorded on an accrued (or national accounts) basis are always subject to some uncertainty, as many taxes such as Value Added Tax (VAT), Corporation Tax and Pay As You Earn (PAYE) Income Tax contain some forecast cash receipts data and are liable to revision when actual cash receipts data are received.
This month we have updated such forecasts to incorporate estimates published in the OBR Economic and fiscal outlook – November 2020 (EFO – November 2020). These are the first official forecasts to consider the impact of COVID-19 on the public sector finances.
Central government expenditure
Central government bodies spent £91.7 billion in December 2020, £28.1 billion more than in December 2019. Of this, £86.2 billion was spent on day-to-day activities (often referred to as current expenditure), such as:
- providing services and grants (for example, related to education, defence, and health and social care) – including the current job furlough schemes
- payment of social benefits (such as pensions, unemployment payments, Child Benefit and Statutory Maternity Pay)
- payment of the interest on the government’s outstanding debt
The remaining £5.5 billion was spent on capital investment such as infrastructure.
Table 3 summarises the components of central government expenditure in December 2020 and compares them with the equivalent measures in the same month a year earlier.
|National Insurance Fund Benefits||9.3||9.8||0.5||5.9|
|Other Net social Benefits||0.1||0.3||0.2||200.0|
|Transfers to Local Government||8.8||9.6||0.9||10.2|
|Contributions to EU||0.4||1.4||1.0||234.9|
|Total Current Expenditure||60.1||86.2||26.1||43.5|
Download this table Table 3: Central government expenditure.xls .csv
Interest payments on debt by central government
Interest payments on central government debt were £2.9 billion in December 2020, £0.1 billion more than in December 2019. Changes in debt interest are largely a result of movements in the Retail Prices Index to which index-linked bonds are pegged.
Central government expenditure on goods and services
Central government departments spent £10.2 billion more on goods and services in December 2020 than in December 2019, including £9.3 billion more on procurement and £1.1 billion more on pay. These increases partially reflect the expenditure by the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC), devolved administrations and other departments in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Subsidies paid by central government
In December 2020, central government paid £11.9 billion more in subsidies to businesses and households than in December 2019. These additional payments included the cost of the job furlough schemes; £4.7 billion as a part of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) and £5.3 billion Self Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS).
Local government and public corporations
Both local government and public corporations’ data for December 2020 are initial estimates, largely based on the Office for Budget Responsibility’s (OBR’s) Economic and fiscal outlook (November 2020),which will be revised when further information is available.
Subsidies paid out to businesses as part of the Coronavirus Small Business Grant Fund, the Coronavirus Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Grant Fund, the Coronavirus Local Authority Discretionary Grants, and similar schemes in devolved administrations, are included based on administrative data published by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) and by the Scottish and Welsh Governments.
Current and capital transfers between these sub-sectors and central government are based on administrative data supplied by HM Treasury and have no impact at the public sector level.
Borrowing in the current financial year-to-date
In the current financial year to December 2020, the public sector borrowed £270.8 billion, £212.7 billion more than in the same period last year.
This substantial increase largely reflects the impact of the pandemic on the public finances, with the furlough schemes alone adding £67.6 billion to borrowing in the financial year-to-December 2020.
Table 4 summarises the components of public sector net borrowing (excluding public sector banks) in the financial year-to-December 2020 and compares them with the equivalent measures in the same period a year earlier. Additionally, the table presents estimates of the borrowing of public sector banks and the full public sector net borrowing measure.
|Local Government |
|Public Corporations |
|Public Sector Pensions |
|Sub-total: Public Sector |
Net Borrowing ex BoE and Banks
|Bank of England |
|Sub-total: Public Sector |
Net Borrowing ex¹
|Public Sector Banks |
|Total: Public Sector Net Borrowing||51.6||264.2||212.6||411.9|
Download this table Table 4: Public sector net borrowing by sub-sector.xls .csv
Borrowing had generally been falling since its peak in financial year ending (FYE) 2010. However, the £57.0 billion borrowed in the latest full financial year (April 2019 to March 2020) was £18.4 billion more than in the previous financial year, largely because of the impact of the coronavirus pandemic being evident from March 2020.
Table 5 summarises the components of central government receipts in the financial year-to-December 2020 and compares them with the equivalent measures in the same period a year earlier.
|Value Added Tax||117.1||102.4||-14.7||-12.6|
|Stamp Duty (L&P)¹||9.8||6.7||-3.1||-31.2|
|Other taxes on production||30.6||26.2||-4.4||-14.4|
|Pay As You Earn Income Tax||119.2||120.0||0.8||0.7|
|Self Assessed Income Tax||12.9||9.5||-3.4||-26.4|
|Other Taxes on Income & wealth³||-2.6||-2.1||0.5||-19.2|
|Compulsory social contributions||104.8||105.1||0.2||0.2|
|Interest & Dividends receipts||15.1||16.2||1.1||7.3|
|Total Current Receipts||545.8||507.6||-38.3||-7.0|
Download this table Table 5: Central Government Current Receipts.xls .csv
On 20 March 2020, the government introduced a Value Added Tax (VAT) payment deferral policy to support UK business during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic by enabling them to pay Value Added Tax (VAT) due between 20 March and 30 June 2020 at a later date (though before 31 March 2022).
VAT receipts recorded in the financial year-to-December 2020 are provisional because the impact of this deferrals scheme has been estimated.
See Section 12 for more information on the challenges of measuring the effects of the coronavirus pandemic on VAT and other tax receipts.
Table 6 summarises the components of central government expenditure in the financial year-to-December 2020 and compares them with the equivalent measures in the same period a year earlier.
|National Insurance Fund Benefits||82.4||87.5||5.1||6.2|
|Other Net social Benefits||3.9||2.4||-1.5||-38.5|
|Transfers to Local Government||84.6||110.0||25.4||30.0|
|Contributions to EU||7.4||10.9||3.5||47.4|
|Total Current Expenditure||550.6||719.8||169.3||30.7|
Download this table Table 6: Central Government Expenditure.xls .csv
Central government bodies are estimated to have spent £719.8 billion on day-to-day activities (current expenditure) in the financial year-to-December 2020, £169.3 billion more than in the same period in 2019. Of this additional expenditure, £67.6 billion was paid as a part of the job furlough schemes, with £48.8 billion on the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) and £18.8 billion on the Self Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS).
CJRS payments on an accrued (or national accounts) basis for the period March to November 2020 are based on HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) estimates, while December reflects the latest OBR official forecast. SEISS payments are currently recorded on a cash basis, reflecting HMRC coronavirus statistics.
Local government borrowing
In the financial year-to-December 2020, local government borrowing is in surplus although the pattern of local government expenditure in recent months is subject to greater than usual uncertainty. Some COVID-related current grants that have been paid by central to local government have not yet been spent by local government, with the possibility of any unspent grants being returned to central government.Back to table of contents
The central government net cash requirement (CGNCR), excluding UK Asset Resolution Ltd and Network Rail, is the amount of cash needed immediately for the UK government to meet its obligations. To obtain cash, the UK government sells financial instruments, gilts or Treasury Bills.
The amount of cash required will be affected by changes in the timing of tax payments by individuals and businesses but does not depend on forecast tax receipts in the same way as our accrued (or national accounts) based measures.
The CGNCR consequently contains the most timely information and is less susceptible to revision. However, as for any cash measure, the CGNCR does not reflect the overall amount for which the government is liable or the point at which any liability is incurred – it only reflects when cash is received and spent.
On 20 March 2020, the government introduced a Value Added Tax (VAT) payment deferral policy to support UK businesses during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic by enabling them to pay Value Added Tax (VAT) due between 20 March and 30 June 2020 at a later date (though before 31 March 2022). This policy has substantially lowered VAT cash receipts over this four-month period.
Tables 7 and 8 demonstrate how CGNCR is calculated from cash receipts and cash outlays. This presentation focuses on the central government’s own account and excludes cash payments to both local government and public non-financial corporations.
|HMRC Receipts: Total paid over¹||44.2||49.4||5.3||12.0|
|HMRC Receipts: Income tax²||13.5||15.4||1.9||14.0|
|HMRC Receipts: NICs³||11.5||12.4||0.9||7.8|
|HMRC Receipts: VAT⁴||7.6||8.5||0.9||11.6|
|HMRC Receipts: Corporation tax⁵||6.1||9.2||3.1||50.4|
|Interest & Dividends Receipts||0.7||0.5||-0.2||-33.5|
|Total Cash Receipts||47.9||54.0||6.2||12.9|
|Net Acquisition of Company Securities⁷||0.0||0.0||0.0||-|
|Net Department Outlays: Total⁸||57.9||81.3||23.5||40.6|
|Net Department Outlays: CJRS⁹||0.0||4.0||4.0||-|
|Net Department Outlays: SEISS||0.0||5.3||5.3||-|
|Total Cash Outlays||63.6||87.3||23.8||37.4|
|Own account Net Cash Requirement ex¹||15.7||33.3||17.6||111.9|
|NRAM and B&B||-0.2||0.0||0.2||120.3|
|Own account Net Cash Requirement¹²||15.6||33.4||17.8||114.4|
Download this table Table 7: Central government net cash requirement on own account.xls .csv
|HMRC Receipts: Total paid over¹||433.0||371.8||-61.2||-14.1|
|HMRC Receipts: Income tax²||132.5||128.6||-3.9||-3.0|
|HMRC Receipts: NICs³||105.6||103.9||-1.6||-1.5|
|HMRC Receipts: VAT⁴||100.6||62.1||-38.5||-38.3|
|HMRC Receipts: Corporation tax⁵||45.9||37.5||-8.4||-18.3|
|Interest & Dividends Receipts||15.4||15.1||-0.3||-2.1|
|Total Cash Receipts||465.0||406.1||-58.9||-12.7|
|Net Acquisition of Company Securities⁷||-4.3||0.0||4.3||-|
|Net Department Outlays: Total⁸||496.9||689.6||192.7||38.8|
|Net Department Outlays: CJRS⁹||0.0||47.3||47.3||-|
|Net Department Outlays: SEISS¹⁰||0.0||18.8||18.8||-|
|Total Cash Outlays||517.8||724.4||206.6||39.9|
|Own account Net Cash Requirement ex¹¹||52.8||318.3||265.5||503.0|
|NRAM and B&B||-0.1||0.0||0.0||65.4|
|Own account Net Cash Requirement¹||52.9||318.4||265.5||502.3|
Download this table Table 8: Central government net cash requirement on own account.xls .csv
On the same day that we release the public sector finances, HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) publishes a Summary of HMRC tax receipts, National Insurance contributions (NICs), tax credit expenditure and Child Benefit for the UK containing a detailed list of cash receipts.Back to table of contents
Public sector net debt (excluding public sector banks) rose by £333.5 billion in the first nine months of the financial year to reach £2,131.7 billion at the end of December 2020, £325.7 billion more than in December 2019.
The extra funding required to support government coronavirus support schemes combined with reduced cash receipts and a fall in gross domestic product (GDP) have all helped push public sector net debt as a ratio of GDP to levels last seen in the early 1960s. Public sector net debt (excluding public sector banks) at the end of December 2020 was equivalent to 99.4% of GDP.
Debt represents the amount of money owed by the public sector to the private sector and is largely made up of gilts (or bonds) issued to investors by central government.
At the end of December 2020, there was £1,825 billion of central government gilts in circulation (including those held by the Bank of England (BoE) Asset Purchase Facility Fund). These gilts are auctioned by the Debt Management Office (DMO), on behalf of central government in accordance with its financing remit.
There has been a substantial month-on-month increase in gilts issuance at face (or redemption) value in the current financial year, partially reflecting the need for extra funding to support government coronavirus (COVID-19) support schemes and to compensate for the fall in tax revenue.
The Bank of England’s contribution to debt
The Bank of England’s (BoE) contribution to debt is largely a result of its quantitative easing activities through the BoE Asset Purchase Facility Fund (APF) and Term Funding Schemes (TFS).
If we were to remove the temporary debt impact of these schemes along with the other transactions relating to the normal operations of the BoE, public sector net debt excluding public sector banks (PSND ex) at the end of December 2020 would reduce by £231.8 billion (or 10.8 percentage points of GDP) to £1,900.0 billion (or 88.6% of GDP).
Bank of England Asset Purchase Facility Fund
Gilts are the primary financial instrument purchased under the APF. At the end of December 2020, the gilt holdings of the APF were £612.8 billion at face (or redemption) value, an increase of £10.7 billion compared with a month earlier. Following a government announcement on 5 November 2020, the gilt holdings of the APF are currently capped at £875 billion.
The estimated impact of the APF’s gilt holdings on debt currently stands at £112.2 billion, representing the difference between the value of the reserves created to purchase gilts (or market value of the gilts) and the face (or redemption) value of the gilts purchased.
In this case, it is not the gilt holdings themselves that contribute to debt but the difference in the valuations for these assets. The final debt impact of the APF depends on the disposal of these financial instruments at the end of the scheme (more specifically, the price received at their re-sale compared with their purchase price).
Corporate bond purchases under the APF umbrella have been on a smaller scale than gilt purchases. The total corporate bond holdings at the end of December 2020 stood at £20.0 billion, adding an equivalent amount to the level of debt.
Term Funding Scheme (TFS) and Term Funding Scheme with additional incentives for small and medium-sized enterprises (TFSME)
The Term Funding Schemes aim to reinforce the transmission of Bank Rate cuts to those interest rates faced by households and businesses.
The public sector balance sheet contains a liability as a result of the creation of the central bank reserves and an asset as a result of the loans to TFS (and TFSME) participants.
At the end of December 2020, the TFS loan liability stood at £50.1 billion and the TFSME loan liability stood at £68.2 billion, making a combined liability of £118.4 billion, adding an equivalent amount to the level of debt.
Assets purchased under the TFS and TFSME fall outside the boundary of PSND ex. Those users who are interested in wider measures of the public sector balance sheet may find estimates of Public Sector Net Financial Liabilities (PSNFL) of interest.Back to table of contents
The data for the latest months of every release contain a degree of forecasts; subsequently, these are replaced by improved forecasts as further data are made available and finally by outturn data.
The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has had a substantial impact on both tax receipts and expenditure. These impacts are likely to be revised further as the full effects of the coronavirus pandemic on the public finances continue to become clearer.
The revisions presented in this section are largely the result of new tax and expenditure data received from our data suppliers.
Revisions to net borrowing in the financial year-to-November 2020
This month we have reduced our previous estimate of borrowing in the financial year-to-November 2020 by £4.2 billion. This was largely due to a reduction in previous estimates of central government expenditure on job furlough payments, procurement and pay, coupled with an overall reduction in our previous estimate of combined tax receipts and national insurance contributions.
Table 9 summarises the revisions to the components of public sector net borrowing (excluding public sector banks) by comparing them with the equivalent measures published in the previous bulletin (published on 22 December 2020).
|Central Government Net Borrowing||32.3||27.6||-4.7||244.3||241.3||-3.0|
|Local Government Net Borrowing||0.6||-0.1||-0.7||-4.2||-5.4||-1.2|
|Public Corporations Net Borrowing||0.1||0.1||0.0||1.5||1.5||0.0|
|Public Sector Pensions Net Borrowing||-0.1||-0.1||0.0||-0.7||-0.7||0.0|
|Sub-total: Public Sector Net Borrowing ex BoE and Banks||33.0||27.6||-5.4||240.9||236.7||-4.2|
|Bank of England Net Borrowing||-1.4||-1.4||0.0||0.0||0.0||0.0|
|Sub-total: Public Sector Net Borrowing ex¹||31.6||26.1||-5.4||240.9||236.7||-4.2|
|Public Sector Banks Net Borrowing||-0.7||-0.7||0.0||-5.9||-5.9||0.0|
|Total: Public Sector Net Borrowing||30.8||25.4||-5.4||235.0||230.8||-4.2|
Download this table Table 9: Revisions to public sector net borrowing.xls .csv
Revisions to central government current receipts in the financial year-to-November 2020
Table 10 summarises the revisions to central government receipts by comparing them with the equivalent measures published in the previous bulletin (published on 22 December 2020).
|Value Added Tax||11.3||11.2||-0.1||92.8||90.5||-2.3|
|Stamp Duty (L&P)¹||0.9||0.9||0.0||5.5||5.5||0.0|
|Other Taxes on Production||3.2||2.8||-0.4||24.2||22.8||-1.4|
|Pay As You Earn Income Tax||13.0||13.3||0.2||106.1||105.9||-0.2|
|Self Assessed Income Tax||0.7||0.7||0.0||7.2||7.2||0.0|
|Other Taxes on Income & wealth³||0.3||0.3||0.0||-1.9||-1.9||0.0|
|Compulsory social contributions||11.5||12.5||1.0||91.0||91.9||0.9|
|Interest & Dividends receipts||0.4||0.4||0.0||15.7||15.8||0.0|
|Total Current Receipts||53.9||56.4||2.6||447.9||447.3||-0.6|
Download this table Table 10: Revisions to central government current receipts.xls .csv
Tax receipts and national insurance contributions
Estimates of central government tax receipts and national insurance contributions presented in this bulletin are partially based on official projections published by the OBR. This month we have updated these forecasts to incorporate estimates published in their Economic and fiscal outlook – November 2020 (EFO – November 2020). This update has resulted in revisions to previous estimates of some taxes such as VAT and corporation tax that rely on a larger proportion of forecast data than others in their estimates for more recent months.
These are the first official forecasts to consider the impact of COVID-19 on the public sector finances.
Section 12 explains the challenges of measuring the effects of the coronavirus pandemic on tax receipts and discusses the recording of tax receipts in some detail.
Revisions to central government current expenditure in the financial year-to-November 2020
Table 11 summarises the revisions to central government expenditure by comparing them with the equivalent measures published in the previous bulletin (published on 22 December 2020).
|National Insurance Fund Benefits||9.3||9.3||0.0||77.8||77.7||0.0|
|Other Net social Benefits||0.3||0.1||-0.2||135.0||134.7||-0.3|
|Transfers to Local Government||11.2||11.9||0.7||99.2||100.4||1.2|
|Contributions to EU||1.8||1.8||0.0||9.5||9.5||0.0|
|Total Current Expenditure||80.6||78.3||-2.3||637.8||633.6||-4.2|
Download this table Table 11: Revisions to central government expenditure.xls .csv
Revisions to Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) payments
This month we reduced our previous estimates of job furlough payments under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme by £2.8 billion in the financial year-to-November 2020.
These changes are largely centred around November 2020, which has been revised down by £2.9 billion, as a result of replacing November’s OBR forecast estimate by the initial outturn estimate supplied by HMRC.
These data are recorded within subsidies paid by central government in Table 11.
Current grants to local government
This month we have increased our estimates of current grants paid by central to local government by £1.2 billion in the financial year-to-November 2020. While central government borrowing increased by £1.2 billion as a result of this update, local government borrowing was reduced by an equal and offsetting amount over the same period.
Historic revisions to public sector net borrowing
Table 12 shows the revisions to net borrowing in the most recent full financial years presented in this bulletin compared with those presented in the previous bulletin (published on 22 December 2020).
|£ billion (not seasonally adjusted)|
Download this table Table 12: Historic revisions to public sector net borrowing.xls .csv
This month we have updated our previous estimates of corporation tax receipts with the latest data supplied by HMRC.
For some types of business, there is a long time lag between profits being generated and the associated corporation tax being paid. This means that data revisions to corporation tax receipts on a national accounts basis can occur over a long period.
An increase in previously estimated corporation tax receipts has caused a downward revision to central government net borrowing in the most recent five financial years.
Revisions to public sector net debt and net cash requirement
Table 13 shows the revisions to public sector net debt and net cash requirement presented in this bulletin compared with those presented in the previous bulletin (published on 22 December 2020).
|£ billion (not seasonally adjusted) unless otherwise stated|
|Period||Net Debt||Net Debt % GDP¹||Net Cash Requirement|
Download this table Table 13: Revisions to the public sector net debt and net cash requirement.xls .csv
Revisions to public sector net debt as a ratio of GDP
This month we have updated our GDP estimates to reflect the latest published data – GDP quarterly national accounts, UK: July to September 2020. As a result, we have reduced our previously published estimate of public sector net debt (excluding public sector banks) expressed as a ratio of GDP at the end of November 2020 by 0.6 percentage points to 98.9%. These revisions to the debt ratio extend back into the financial year ending March 2019, though become smaller over time.
We have published an article that explains how estimates of GDP are used to present debt and other headline measures.Back to table of contents
Public sector finances borrowing by sub-sector
Dataset | Released 22 January 2021
An extended breakdown of public sector borrowing in a matrix format and estimates of total managed expenditure (TME).
Public sector finances tables 1 to 10: Appendix A
Dataset | Released 22 January 2021
The data underlying the public sector finances statistical bulletin are presented in the tables PSA 1 to 10.
Public sector finances revisions analysis on main fiscal aggregates: Appendix C
Dataset | Released 22 January 2021
Revisions analysis for central government receipts, expenditure, net borrowing and net cash requirement statistics for the UK over the last five years.
Public sector current receipts: Appendix D
Dataset | Released 22 January 2021
A breakdown of UK public sector income by latest month, financial year-to-date and full financial year, with comparisons with the same period in the previous financial year.
International Monetary Fund’s Government Finance Statistics framework in the public sector finances: Appendix E
Dataset | Released 22 January 2021
Presents the balance sheet, statement of operations and statement of other economic flows for public sector compliant with the Government Finance Statistics Manual 2014: GFSM 2014 presentation.
HMRC tax receipts and National Insurance contributions for the UK
Dataset | Released 22 January 2021
Summary of HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) tax receipts, National Insurance contributions (NICs), tax credit expenditure and Child Benefit for the UK on a cash basis.
In the UK, the public sector consists of six sub-sectors: central government, local government, public non-financial corporations, public sector pensions, the Bank of England (BoE) and public financial corporations (or public sector banks).
Public sector current budget deficit
Public sector current budget is the difference between revenue (mainly from taxes) and current expenditure, on an accrued (or national accounts) basis; it is the gap between current expenditure and current receipts (having taken account of depreciation). The current budget is in surplus when receipts are greater than expenditure.
Public sector net investment
Public sector net investment is the sum of all capital spending, mainly net acquisitions of capital assets and capital grants, less the depreciation of the stock of capital assets.
Public sector net borrowing
Public sector net borrowing excluding public sector banks (PSNB ex) measures the gap between revenue raised (current receipts) and total spending (current expenditure plus net investment (capital spending less capital receipts)). PSNB is often referred to by commentators as “the deficit”.
Public sector net cash requirement
The public sector net cash requirement (PSNCR) represents the cash needed to be raised from the financial markets over a period of time to finance the government’s activities. This can be close to the deficit for the same period; however, there are some transactions, for example, loans to the private sector, that need to be financed but do not contribute to the deficit. It is also close but not identical to the changes in the level of net debt between two points in time.
Public sector net debt
Public sector net debt excluding public sector banks (PSND ex) represents the amount of money the public sector owes to private sector organisations including overseas institutions, largely as a result of issuing gilts and Treasury Bills, minus the amount of cash and other short-term assets it holds. PSND is often referred to by commentators as “the national debt”.
Debt interest to revenue ratio
The debt interest to revenue ratio (DIR) represents the proportion of net interest paid (gross interest paid less interest received) by the public sector (excluding public sector banks), compared with the non-interest receipts it receives in a given period.
Other important terms commonly used to describe public sector finances are listed in the Public sector finances glossary.Back to table of contents
The Monthly statistics on the public sector finances: a methodological guide provides comprehensive contextual and methodological information concerning the monthly public sector finances statistical bulletin. The guide sets out the conceptual and fiscal policy context for the bulletin, identifies the main fiscal measures, and explains how these are derived and interrelated. Additionally, it details the data sources used to compile the monthly estimates of the fiscal position. The borrowing estimates presented in this bulletin are not adjusted for inflation.
More quality and methodology information on strengths, limitations, appropriate uses, and how the data were created is available in the Public sector finances QMI.
Comparisons with official forecasts
The independent Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) is responsible for the production of official forecasts for the government. These forecasts are usually produced twice a year, in spring and autumn.
On 14 April 2020, the OBR published an illustrative three-month lockdown scenario that assessed the potential impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the economy and public finances. These estimates have been further refined as more information on the impact of the pandemic on the UK economy has developed.
The official OBR expectations for the financial year ending March 2021 presented in Table 14 reflect those published in the OBR’s Economic and fiscal outlook – November 2020, published on 25 November 2020.
|£ billion unless otherwise stated (not seasonally adjusted)|
|April to December|
|Implied January to |
|Full financial |
|Net Debt % of GDP³||99.4||5.8||105.2|
Download this table Table 14: How the latest outturn public sector figures compare with official OBR forecasts for the financial year ending March 2021, UK.xls .csv
The UK government debt and deficit statistical bulletin is published quarterly (in January, April, July and October each year), to coincide with when EU member states are required to report their deficit (or net borrowing) and national debt to the European Commission.
Figure 9 illustrates how the recent change in UK general government consolidated gross debt (or Maastricht debt) compares with selected EU member states.
Measured according to the Maastricht definition, UK government debt increased by 17.0 percentage points of GDP between the end of September 2019 and the end of September 2020. This increase was 4.7 percentage points higher than the average of the 27 EU member states.
End of EU Exit Transition period
As the UK enters into a new Trade and Cooperation Agreement with the EU, the UK statistical system will continue to produce and publish our wide range of economic and social statistics and analysis.
We are committed to continued alignment with the highest international statistical standards, enabling comparability both over time and internationally, and ensuring the general public, statistical users and decision makers have the data they need to be informed.
This means that the statistics included in this release, and our sector classifications process, will continue to draw on the European System of Accounts (ESA) 2010 and the Manual on Government Deficit and Debt, and associated guides following the end of the Transition period. We also intend to continue to produce the main fiscal aggregates that we have previously provided to Eurostat as part of the Excessive Deficit Procedure (EDP) process.
As the shape of the UK’s future statistical relationship with the EU becomes clearer over the coming period, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) is making preparations to assume responsibilities that as part of our membership of the EU, and during the transition period, were delegated to the statistical office of the EU, Eurostat. This includes responsibilities relating to international comparability of economic statistics, deciding what international statistical guidance to apply in the UK context and to provide further scrutiny of our statistics and sector classification decisions.
In applying international statistical standards and best practice to UK economic statistics, we will draw on the technical advice of experts in the UK and internationally, and our work will be underpinned by the UK’s well-established and robust framework for independent official statistics, set out in the Statistics and Registration Service Act 2007. Further information on our proposals will be made available in early this year.
The implications for the public sector finances of leaving the European Union
Our January 2021 bulletin, to be published on the 19 February 2021, will begin to reflect the Withdrawal Agreement and our new Trade and Cooperation Agreement with the EU.
From January 2021, customs duties will be recorded as UK tax receipts, where previously they were recorded as EU tax receipts (not in the UK public sector). We have provisionally recorded these customs duties as taxes on production while we await a formal classification decision. There may be some future amendments to the monthly pattern of these provisionally recorded receipts.
Further, we expect the UK’s regular monthly payments to the EU to stop with effect from January 2021. Decisions on the recording of any future payments will be made in due course.Back to table of contents
National Statistics status for public sector finances
On 20 June 2017, the UK Statistics Authority published a letter confirming the designation of the monthly public sector finances bulletin as a National Statistic. This letter completes the 2015 assessment of public sector finances.
Gross domestic product (GDP)
Estimates of GDP used to present debt and other headline measures are partly based on provisional and official forecast data.
Our December 2020 estimate of GDP requires data across four quarters of GDP. Of these, one is based on the latest Office for National Statistics (ONS) published data and three are based on official Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) projections:
data up to and including Quarter 3 (July to Sept) 2020 are based on the published GDP quarterly national accounts, UK: July to September 2020
estimates of GDP for the subsequent three calendar quarters (October 2020 to June 2021) are based on expectations published in the OBR’s Economic and fiscal outlook – November 2020, the first official forecast to consider the impact of COVID-19 on the public sector finances
Local government data for the financial year ending March (FYE) 2020 are based on a mixture of provisional outturn data (current and capital expenditure for England and Scotland) and budget data. Both provisional outturn and budget data are subject to further revisions.
In recent years, planned expenditure initially reported in local authority budgets has been systematically higher than the final outturn expenditure reported in the audited accounts. We therefore include adjustments to reduce the amounts reported at the budget stage.
For FYE 2020, we include a £0.2 billion downward adjustment to Wales’ capital expenditure.
Local government data for FYE 2021 are initial estimates, based on the OBR forecasts.
These figures reflect our initial estimates of the impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
For FYE 2021, these estimates include a £7.0 billion upward adjustment to budget forecast data (which predates the coronavirus pandemic) for England’s current expenditure on goods and services, and a £2.5 billion downward adjustment to England’s capital expenditure. We have included £0.7 billion and £0.2 billion downward adjustments to Scotland’s and Wales’ capital expenditure respectively. We apply a further £1.0 billion downward adjustment to budget forecast current expenditure on benefits in FYE 2021, to reflect the most recently available data for housing benefits.
Further information on these and additional adjustments can be found in the Public sector finances QMI.
Current and capital transfers between local and central government are based on administrative data supplied by HM Treasury.
Non-financial public corporations
Public corporations data for FYE 2021 are initial estimates, based on OBR forecasts. Current and capital transfers between public corporations and central government are based on administrative data supplied by HM Treasury.
Public sector funded pensions
Pensions data for FYE 2020 and 2021 are our estimates based on the latest available data. Some of these estimates rely on actuarial modelling; this is a complex process that most public sector schemes conduct every three to four years. Until such valuations become available, we forecast the change in pension liability using our knowledge of the economic climate. Pensions in the public sector finances: a methodological guide outlines both the theory and practice behind our calculation of pension scheme estimates.
Public sector banks
Unless otherwise stated, the figures quoted in this bulletin exclude public sector banks (that is, currently only Royal Bank of Scotland, RBS). The reported position of debt, and to a lesser extent borrowing, would be distorted by the inclusion of RBS’ balance sheet (and transactions). This is because the government does not need to borrow to fund the debt of RBS, nor would surpluses achieved by RBS be passed on to the government, other than through any dividends paid as a result of the government equity holdings.Back to table of contents
Contact details for this Statistical bulletin
Telephone: +44 (0)1633 456402