Public sector finances, UK: January 2016

How the relationship between UK public sector monthly income and expenditure leads to changes in deficit and debt.

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This is an accredited national statistic.

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Release date:
19 February 2016

Next release:
22 March 2016

1. Main points

Public sector net borrowing excluding public sector banks decreased by £10.6 billion to £66.5 billion in the current financial year-to-date (April 2015 to January 2016) compared with the same period in the previous financial year.

Public sector net borrowing excluding public sector banks was in a surplus of £11.2 billion in January 2016, a £1.0 billion greater surplus compared with January 2015.

Self-assessed income tax receipts increased by £0.2 billion to £12.4 billion in January 2016 compared with January 2015. The proportion of self-assessed income tax recorded in January and February can vary year-on-year and it is therefore advisable to consider data for the 2 months (January and February) together.

Public sector net debt excluding public sector banks at the end of January 2016 was £1,581.6 billion, equivalent to 82.8% of Gross Domestic Product; an increase of £52.7 billion compared with January 2015.

Central government net cash requirement decreased by £19.7 billion to £41.6 billion in the current financial year-to-date (April 2015 to January 2016) compared with the same period in the previous financial year.

This month’s bulletin includes the impact of the reclassification of English private registered providers of social housing (referred to in this bulletin as housing associations) from the private to the public corporation sector for the first time.

Due to the volatility of the monthly data, the cumulative financial year-to-date borrowing figures provide a better indication of the progress of the public finances than the individual months.

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2. Summary publication

A summary version of this publication is available Public Sector Finances, January 2016: A summary of the UK government’s financial position which some users may find helpful. Twitter updates are also available by following @frasermunropsf.

Housing associations

The reclassification of English private registered providers of social housing (referred to here as housing associations), announced on 30 October 2015, affects over 1,500 bodies providing social housing and applies back to July 2008 when the controls in the Housing and Regeneration Act 2008 came into force.

This reclassification has increased public sector net debt (PSND), public sector net borrowing (PSNB) and Public Sector Net Cash Requirement (PSNCR) as a result of the outstanding debt, borrowing and net cash requirement of the housing associations being included within the public corporation sub-sector.

PSND at the end of March 2015 has been increased by £59.8 billion, while PSNB over the financial year ending March 2015 (April 2014 to March 2015) has increased by £3.6 billion and PSNCR by £3.7 billion. General government aggregates are not impacted.

Housing associations are discussed further in section 8, “Recent events and methodological changes”, while the full impact of the inclusion of housing associations in fiscal terms are summarised in Table 6 of this bulletin.

EU government deficit and debt

On 15 January 2016, we published the latest EU Government Deficit and Debt Return which reported that:

  • general government net borrowing (Maastricht Borrowing) in the financial year ending 2015 (April 2014 to March 2015) was £91.9 billion, equivalent to 5.0% of GDP

  • general government gross debt (Maastricht Debt) at the end of March 2015 was £1,601.3 billion, equivalent to 87.5% of GDP

This publication reports a slightly revised Maastricht Borrowing, in the financial year ending 2015, to £91.0 billion and an unchanged Maastricht Debt at the end of March 2015 of £1,601.3 billion.

Please refer to section 5, International comparisons of borrowing and debt for further detail.

Requests for user feedback

The use of GDP in public sector fiscal ratio statistics

To ensure public sector finance statistics are meeting user demand, we invite you to share with us how useful you find those public sector finance statistics which are presented as a proportion of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and ask whether you have suggestions of how we can improve our presentation.

We would welcome responses to a short set of (5) questions by 18 March 2016.

We will publish a summary of the comments made approximately 12 weeks after the close of the consultation period and implement any recommendations thereafter.

More information on the calculation of GDP ratios can be found in The Use of GDP in Public Sector Fiscal Ratio Statistics.

Country and regional (sub-UK) public sector finances

We would like to gather your suggestion for a Country and Regional Public Sector Finances publication.

In the current climate of devolution there is growing demand for sub-national statistics and in an effort to understand these demands, we have begun looking into the feasibility of producing such statistics at a NUTS1 level, comprising Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland and the 9 statistical territories of England.

We would welcome responses to a short set of (7) questions by 11 April 2016.

We will publish a summary of the comments made approximately 12 weeks after the close of the consultation period.

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3. Contents

  • Understanding this release

    Introduces a number of important terms used within this release and how they fit together.

  • Summary of latest net borrowing position

    Shows how much has been borrowed in the latest month and financial year-to-date, together with comparisons with periods and explanation in terms of receipts and expenditure.

  • Summary of latest net debt position

    Explains how accumulated borrowing has led to the current level of debt.

  • Net borrowing and debt data compared with OBR forecast

    Compares the current borrowing and debt figures with latest Office for Budget Responsibility forecasts.

  • International comparisons of borrowing and debt

    Outlines the measures of general government borrowing and net debt as supplied to Eurostat under the requirements of the Maastricht Treaty.

  • Public sector net cash requirement

    Provides the net cash requirement for the public sector (a measure of borrowing on a cash basis).

  • Central government receipts and expenditure

    Provides detail on the current receipts, current expenditure, current budget deficit and net investment of central government.

  • Recent events and methodological changes

    Information on events which have had an impact on the public sector finances in the last 12 to 18 months.

  • Revisions since previous bulletin

    Information on the revisions between this publication and last month’s publication.

  • New for this bulletin

    Information on new or recently added tables included in (or associated with) the current or future publications.

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4. Understanding this release

This statistical bulletin provides important information on the UK government financial position. It enables government, the public, economists and financial analysts to monitor public sector expenditure, receipts, investments, borrowing and debt. By comparing these data with forecasts from The Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) the current UK fiscal position can be evaluated.

We recently published an article titled The debt and deficit of the UK public sector explained which some users may also find useful.

The following tables and diagram are intended to provide users with the important terms needed to understand these data and how the statistics relate to each other.

Figure 1 illustrates how debt between periods changes as a result of transaction flows (for example expenditure and receipts) on an accrued and cash basis. The transaction flows are provided for the current financial year-to-date (April 2015 to January 2016).

The headline measures of current budget deficit, net borrowing, net cash requirement and net debt are highlighted in the diagram as they provide the important indicators for the performance of the UK public finances.

When expenditure is greater than income, the public sector runs a deficit, known as the current budget deficit. Net borrowing is made up of the current budget deficit plus net investment (spending on capital less capital receipts). The diagram shows how net borrowing contributes to the change in net debt.

The net cash requirement is closely related to net debt (the amount owed). It is important because it represents the cash needed to be raised from the financial markets to service the government’s borrowing deficit. Changes in net debt between 2 points in time are normally similar to the net cash requirement for the intervening period, though the relationship is not an exact one.

This release presents the first estimate of January 2016 public sector finances and updates previous financial years’ data.

Table 2 summarises the latest headline public sector finances measures, comparing the latest month and cumulative totals for the financial year-to-date for each with the equivalent period in the previous year. Time series for each component are available in Table PSA1.

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5. Summary of latest public sector net borrowing position

In the UK, the public sector consists of 5 sub-sectors: central government, local government, public non-financial corporations, Bank of England and public financial corporations (that is, public sector banks).

Table 3 summarises the current monthly and year-to-date borrowing position of each of these sub-sectors along with the public sector aggregates. Full time series for these data can be found in Table PSA2.

While public sector finance data are available on a monthly basis, due to the volatility of the monthly time series, it is often more informative to look at the financial year-to-date or complete financial year data in order to discern underlying patterns. Estimates are revised over time as additional data becomes available.

Figure 2 illustrates public sector net borrowing excluding public sector banks (PSNB ex) for the last 22 financial years. For all but 3 years in the period the public sector has been in deficit and had to borrow to fund the gap between expenditure and revenue.

PSNB ex peaked in the financial year ending 2010 (April 2009 to March 2010) as the effects of the economic downturn impacted on the public finances (reducing tax receipts while expenditure continued to increase). PSNB ex has reduced since then, although remained higher than before the financial year ending 2008 (April 2007 to March 2008) and the 2007 global financial market shock.

PSNB ex in the financial year ending 2013 (April 2012 to March 2013) was higher than in the previous financial year largely as a result of the recording of an £8.9 billion payable capital transfer in April 2012, as recognition that the liabilities transferred from the Royal Mail Pension Plan exceeded the assets transferred.

Net borrowing for the financial year-to-date (April 2015 to January 2016)

Due to the volatility of the monthly data, the cumulative financial year-to-date borrowing figures provide a better indication of the progress of the public finances than the individual months.

In the financial year-to-date (April 2015 to January 2016), public sector net borrowing excluding banking groups (PSNB ex) was £66.5 billion; a decrease of £10.6 billion, or 13.7% compared with the same period in the previous financial year.

This decrease in net borrowing was predominantly due to a decrease of £10.3 billion in central government net borrowing, partially offset by increases in both local government and public corporations’ net borrowing of £0.9 billion and £0.7 billion respectively.

Over the same period, Bank of England (BoE) net borrowing was £2.0 billion lower than in the same period in the previous financial year, almost entirely due to Asset Purchase Facility (APF) transfers to central government. The combined net borrowing of central government and the BoE in the financial year-to-date (April 2015 to January 2016) was £12.3 billion lower than in the same period in the previous financial year.

Central government receipts for the financial year-to-date (April 2015 to January 2016) were £526.1 billion, an increase of £15.5 billion, or 3.0%, compared with the same period in the previous financial year. Of which:

  • income tax-related payments increased by £6.5 billion, or 4.7%, to £143.7 billion

  • VAT receipts increased by £3.8 billion, or 3.7%, to £108.2 billion

  • social (national insurance) contributions increased by £3.1 billion, or 3.5%, to £91.8 billion

  • corporation tax increased by £1.2 billion, or 3.0%, to £40.5 billion

  • interest & dividends decreased by £1.6 billion, or 9.4%, to £15.6 billion

Central government expenditure (current and capital) for the financial year-to-date (April 2015 to January 2016) was £574.0 billion, an increase of £4.9 billion, or 0.9%, compared with the same period in the previous financial year. Of which:

  • other current expenditure (mainly departmental spending) increased by £2.9 billion, or 0.9%, to £335.7 billion; largely as a result of increases in departmental spending on goods & services and subsidies, being partially offset by decreases in transfers to local government

  • net social benefits (mainly pension payments) increased by £1.2 billion, or 0.7%, to £171.0 billion; largely as a result of increases in state pension payments (within National Insurance Fund benefits) and public sector pension payments, being partially offset by a fall in public sector pension contributions

  • central government net investment (capital expenditure) increased by £0.5 billion, or 2.0%, to £26.5 billion; largely as a result of an increase in gross capital formation and transfers from central government to other sectors, partially offset by transfers to central government from other sectors

  • debt interest increased by £0.3 billion, or 0.8%, to £40.8 billion; of this £40.8 billion, £11.6 billion is the interest payable to the Bank of England Asset Purchase Facility on its gilt holdings (see Table PSA9) which are PSNB ex neutral

Local government net borrowing (LGNB) for the financial year-to-date (April 2015 to January 2016) was estimated to be £2.0 billion, an increase of £0.9 billion on the same period in the previous financial year. This increase was mainly due to decreases in grants received from central government, particularly in April, being partially offset by decreases in expenditure on goods & services.

Local government data for the current financial year-to-date are provisional estimates mainly based on budget figures received from the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) and the devolved administrations, while estimates for the previous financial year-to-date are largely based on final outturn figures.

Public corporations’ net borrowing (PCNB) for the financial year-to-date (April 2015 to January 2016) was estimated to be £3.0 billion, an increase of £0.7 billion on the same period in the previous financial year.

Public corporation data for the current financial year-to-date are mainly provisional estimates.

Net borrowing in January 2016

In January 2016, public sector net borrowing excluding public sector banks (PSNB ex) was in surplus by £11.2 billion; an increase in surplus of £1.0 billion, or 9.7% compared with January 2015. This increase in surplus was largely due to an increase in central government surplus of £0.2 billion and a decrease in local government net borrowing of £0.6 billion.

In January 2016, Bank of England (BoE) net borrowing was £0.2 billion lower than in the same period in 2015, almost entirely due to Asset Purchase Facility (APF) transfers to central government. The combined net borrowing of central government and the BoE in January 2016 was £0.4 billion lower than in January 2015.

Central government receipts in January 2016 were £72.9 billion, an increase of £2.4 billion, or 3.4% compared with January 2015. Of this:

  • income tax-related payments increased by £1.8 billion, or 6.5%, to £30.3 billion; of this, self-assessed income tax increased by £0.2 billion, or 1.6%, to £12.4 billion

  • VAT receipts increased by £0.3 billion, or 2.7%, to £11.0 billion

  • social (national insurance) contributions increased by £0.3 billion, or 3.7%, to £9.6 billion

  • corporation tax decreased by £0.7 billion, or 7.8%, to £7.7 billion

Central government expenditure (current and capital) in January 2016 was £57.4 billion, a decrease of £2.1 billion, or 3.8%, compared with January 2015. Of this:

  • debt interest increased by £1.3 billion, or 46.0%, to £4.2 billion; of this £4.2 billion, £1.2 billion is the interest paid to the Asset Purchase Facility Fund (APF) on its gilt holdings (see Table PSA9) which are PSNB ex neutral

  • central government net investment (capital expenditure) increased by £0.6 billion, or 19.9%, to £3.9 billion; largely as a result of increases in gross capital formation and capital transfers from central government to other sectors

  • other current expenditure (mainly departmental spending) increased by £0.3 billion, or 0.9%, to £32.9 billion; largely as a result of an increase in expenditure on goods & services, along with a number of largely offsetting current grants and transfers

  • net social benefits (mainly pension payments) decreased by £0.2 billion, or 0.9%, to £16.5 billion; largely as a result of decreases in public sector pensions (payments and contributions) and social assistance, being partially offset by increases in state pension payments (within National Insurance Fund benefits)

Detailed time series for each of the expenditure and revenue component series of central government net borrowing are presented in Tables PSA6B to 6F attached to this bulletin.

In January 2016, local government net borrowing (LGNB) was estimated at £1.7 billion; a decrease of £0.6 billion compared with January 2015, mainly due to a decrease in capital transfers paid to and an increase in capital transfers received from central government.

Local government data for January 2016 are provisional estimates mainly based on budget figures received from the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) and the devolved administrations, while estimates for January 2015 are largely based on final outturn figures.

Detailed time series for each of the expenditure and revenue component series of local government net borrowing are presented in Tables PSA6G to 6K attached to this bulletin.

In January 2016, public corporations’ net borrowing (PCNB) was estimated to be in surplus by £0.1 billion, broadly equivalent to that in January 2015.

Public corporation data for January 2016 are mainly provisional estimates.

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6. Summary of latest public sector net debt position

Public sector net debt ex (PSND ex) represents the amount of money the public sector owes to UK private sector organisations and overseas institutions, largely as a result of government financial liabilities on the bonds (gilts) and Treasury bills it has issued.

While deficit represents the difference between income and spending over a period of time, debt represents the total amount of money owed at a point in time. This debt has been built up by successive government administrations over many years. When the government borrows (that is, runs a deficit), this adds to the debt total. So reducing the deficit is not the same as reducing the debt.

At the end of January 2016, PSND ex stood at £1,581.6 billion; an increase of £52.7 billion compared with January 2015. This increase in net debt is a result of:

  • £81.3 billion of public sector net borrowing

  • less £0.1 billion in timing differences between cash flows for gilt interest payments and the accrued gilt interest flows

  • less £28.5 billion in net cash transactions related to acquisition or disposal of financial assets of equivalent value (for example loans) and timing of recording

At the end of January 2016, the provisional estimate of PSND ex as a percentage of GDP stood at 82.8%; a decrease of 0.1 percentage points compared with January 2015. This is the first time PSND ex as a percentage of GDP has experienced a year-on-year decrease since September 2002 compared to September 2001; or to put it another way, this is the first time since September 2002 that GDP is estimated to have grown faster than net debt.

Users should be cautious in inferring too much from this year-on-year decrease in PSND ex as a percentage of GDP, as the GDP figure used in the January 2016 estimate is partly based on the OBR GDP forecast. Changes to the OBR forecast in the March 2016 Economic and Fiscal Outlook may lead to revisions in the January 2016 estimate for PSND ex as a percentage of GDP. Similarly, the January 2016 estimate may also be revised as a result of the regular quarterly publication of ONS GDP estimates replacing OBR forecasts and any revisions to the components of PSND ex. More information on the calculation of GDP ratios can be found in The Use of GDP in Public Sector Fiscal Ratio Statistics.

We are currently seeking user views on the presentation of fiscal statistics as a percentage of GDP and invite users to respond to a short set of (5) questions by 18 March 2016.

Figure 3 illustrates public sector net debt excluding banking groups (PSND ex) from the financial year ending March 1994 to date. PSND ex represents the amount of money the public sector owes to UK private sector organisations and overseas institutions, largely as a result of government liabilities on the bonds (gilts) and Treasury bills it has issued.

The increases in debt between the financial year ending 2009 (April 2008 to March 2009) and the financial year ending 2011 (April 2010 to March 2011) were larger than in the early part of the decade, as the economic downturn meant public sector net borrowing excluding public sector banks (PSNB ex) increased. Since then it has continued to increase but at a slower rate.

For the purposes of UK fiscal policy, net debt is defined as total gross financial liabilities less liquid financial assets, where liquid assets are cash and short-term assets which can be released for cash at short notice and without significant loss. These liquid assets mainly comprise foreign exchange reserves and bank deposits.

Figure 4 presents public sector debt excluding public sector banks at the end of January 2016 by sub-sector. Time series for each of these component series are presented in Tables PSA8A to D attached to this bulletin.

Changes in net debt between 2 points in time are normally similar to the net cash requirement for the intervening period, though the relationship is not an exact one because the net cash requirement reflects actual prices paid while the net debt is at nominal prices. For instance, gilts are recorded in net debt at their redemption (or face) value, but they are often issued at a different price due to premia or discounts being applied. The net cash requirement will reflect the actual issuance and redemption prices, but net debt only ever records the face (or nominal) value.

Net cash requirement is discussed further in Section 6 of this bulletin.

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7. Net borrowing and debt statistics compared with OBR forecast

The Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) normally produces forecasts of the public finances twice a year (normally in March and December). The latest OBR forecast was published on 25 November 2015, with the next scheduled for 16 March 2016.

Figure 5 and Table 4 enable users to compare emerging data against the OBR forecasts. Caution should be taken when comparing public finance data with OBR figures for the full financial year, as data are not finalised until after the financial year ends. Initial estimates soon after the end of the financial year can be subject to sizeable revisions in later months. In addition, in-year timing effects on spending and receipts can affect year-to-date comparisons with previous years.

There can also be some methodological differences between OBR forecasts and outturn data. In its latest publication, OBR published a table within their Economic and fiscal outlook supplementary fiscal tables December 2015 titled “Table: 2.44 Items included in OBR forecasts that ONS have not yet included in outturn”.

Figure 5 illustrates the public sector net borrowing excluding public sector banks (PSNB ex) for the financial year ending 2015 (April 2014 to March 2015), along with the first 10 month’s borrowing of the financial year ending 2016 (April to January 2016).

In the financial year-to-date (April 2015 to January 2016), borrowing fell by £10.6 billion to £66.5 billion compared with the same period in the previous financial year.

The OBR forecast for the financial year ending 2016 (April 2015 to March 2016) is £73.5 billion which is £18.4 billion below the outturn in financial year ending 2015 (April 2014 to March 2015) of £91.9 billion presented in this bulletin.

Table 4 summarises the percentage change between the latest data for the financial year-to-date (April 2015 to January 2016) and in the previous financial year (April 2014 to January 2015). It contrasts these data with the percentage change between the latest full year outturn data for the financial year ending 2015 (April 2014 to March 2015) and the OBR forecast for the financial year ending 2016 (April 2015 to March 2016) (as published in July 2015).

On the same day as this bulletin is released, the OBR publishes a commentary on the latest figures and how these reflect on its forecasts. The OBR provides this commentary to help users interpret the differences between the latest outturn data and the OBR forecasts by providing contextual information about assumptions made during the OBR’s forecasting process.

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8. International comparisons of borrowing and debt

The EU Government Deficit and Debt statistical bulletin is published quarterly (in January, April, July and November each year), to coincide with when the UK and other European Union member states are required to report on their deficit (or net borrowing) and debt to the European Commission.

On 15 January 2016, we published the latest EU Government Deficit and Debt Return. In this publication we report that:

  • general government net borrowing (Maastricht Borrowing) in the financial year ending 2015 (April 2014 to March 2015) was £91.9 billion, equivalent to 5.0% of GDP; a decrease of £12.2 billion compared with the financial year ending March 2014

  • general government gross debt (Maastricht Debt) at the end of March 2015 was £1,601.3 billion, equivalent to 87.5% of GDP; an increase of £79.9 billion compared with the end of the financial year ending March 2014

Eurostat published a government debt and deficit comparison from the information collated across its 28 member states.

The data used to produce the 15 January 2016 publication are consistent with those used in the production of the public sector finances statistical bulletin published on 22 December 2015. The latest public sector finances data in this bulletin reports that:

  • general government net borrowing in the financial year ending 2015 (April 2014 to March 2015) was £91.0 billion, equivalent to 5.0% of GDP; a decrease of £12.3 billion compared with the previous financial year

  • general government gross debt at the end of March 2015 was £1,601.3 billion, equivalent to 87.5% of GDP; an increase of £79.9 billion compared with March 2014

It is important to note that the GDP measure used as the denominator in the calculation of the debt ratios in the EU Government Deficit and Debt Return differs from that used within the public sector finances statistical bulletin.

An article, the use of GDP in fiscal ratio statistics, explains that for debt figures reported in the monthly public sector finances, a 12 month GDP total centred on the month is employed, while in the EU Government Deficit and Debt Return the total GDP for the preceding 12 months is used.

We are currently seeking user views on the presentation of fiscal statistics as a percentage of GDP and invite users to respond to a short set of (5) questions by 18 March 2016.

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9. Public sector net cash requirement

Net cash requirement is a measure of how much cash the government needs to borrow (or lend) to balance its accounts. In very broad terms, net cash requirement equates to the change in the level of debt.

Central government net cash requirement is reconciled against the change in central government net debt in Table REC3 attached to this bulletin.

The public sector net cash requirement excluding public sector banks (PSNCR ex) follows a similar trend to that of public sector net borrowing: peaking in the financial year ending 2010, though in recent years transfers from the Asset Purchase Facility have had a substantial impact on PSNCR ex but are PSNB ex neutral.

Public sector net cash requirement excluding public sector banks (PSNCR ex) in the financial year-to-date (April 2015 to January 2016) was £30.8 billion; £25.0 billion, or 44.8% less than in the same period in the previous financial year.

Figure 6 presents public sector cash requirement by sub-sector for the current financial year-to-date (April 2015 to January 2016). Time series for each of these component series are presented in Table PSA7A attached to this bulletin.

Central government net cash requirement (CGNCR) is a focus for some users, as it provides an indication of how many gilts (government bonds) the Debt Management Office may issue to meet the government’s borrowing requirements.

CGNCR was in surplus by £21.5 billion in January 2016; a £2.5 billion, or 13.1% greater surplus than in January 2015.

In the current financial year-to-date (April 2015 to January 2016), CGNCR was £41.6 billion; a decrease of £19.7 billion, or 32.2%, compared with the same period in the previous financial year.

Cash transfers from the Asset Purchase Facility (APF) were £2.2 billion lower in the current financial year-to-date (April 2015 to January 2016), than the previous financial year. Without the impact of these transfers, CGNCR would have been £21.9 billion lower in the current financial year-to-date (April 2015 to January 2016) than the same period in the previous financial year.

Recent events impacting on CGNCR

In the financial year ending 2016 (April 2015 to March 2016) the following events reduced the CGNCR:

  • the transfers between the Bank of England Asset Purchase Facility Fund (BEAPFF) and central government

  • the sale of shares in Lloyds Banking Group

  • the sale of shares in Eurostar

  • the sale of shares in Royal Mail

  • the sale of shares in Royal Bank of Scotland

  • the sale of UKAR assets

  • the re-imbursement of support payments made to Ice Save

In the financial year ending 2015 (April 2014 to March 2015) the following events reduced the CGNCR:

  • the transfers between the BEAPFF and central government

  • the sale of shares in Lloyds Banking Group

In the financial year ending 2014 (April 2013 to March 2014) the following events reduced the CGNCR:

  • the transfers between the BEAPFF and central government

  • the sale of shares in Lloyds Banking Group

  • the sale of shares in Royal Mail

In the financial year ending 2013 (April 2012 to March 2013) the following events reduced the CGNCR:

  • the transfers between the BEAPFF and central government

  • the Royal Mail Pension Plan transfer and subsequent sale of assets

  • the transfer of the Special Liquidity Scheme final profits between BoE and central government

  • the 4G Spectrum sale

Public sector net cash requirement

Although the central government net cash requirement is the largest part of the public sector net cash requirement excluding public sector banks (PSNCR ex), the total public sector net cash requirement (PSNCR) can be very different. The reason is that the PSNCR includes the net cash requirement of the public sector banking groups. In recent years, the public sector banking groups have recorded large cash surpluses which have had a substantial impact on the public sector net cash requirement.

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10. Central government receipts and expenditure

Current receipts

The government receives income mainly from taxes but also from national insurance contributions, interest & dividends, fines and rent.

As cash receipts are generally accrued back to earlier periods when the economic activity took place, the first monthly estimate for receipts is by nature provisional, and must include a substantial amount of forecast data.

Central government receipts follow a strong cyclical pattern over the year, with high receipts in April, July, October and January due to quarterly corporation tax returns being accrued to these months.

In both January and July (to a lesser extent) accrued receipts are particularly high due to receipts from quarterly corporation tax combining with those from income tax self-assessment. The revenue raised through income tax self-assessment, as well as primarily affecting January and July receipts, also tends to lead to high receipts in the following month (February and November respectively), although to a lesser degree.

Pay as you earn (PAYE) tends to vary little throughout the financial year on a monthly basis (excluding bonus months).

In recent years transfers from both the Bank of England Asset Purchase Facility Fund (BEAPFF) and the Special Liquidity Scheme (SLS) have boosted central government receipts. Though these transfers to central government have no impact on public sector borrowing due to the central government receipts being offset by the payments from the Bank of England.

Current expenditure

Current expenditure is the government’s spending on activities such as: social benefits (mainly pension payments), interest payments and other current expenditure including government departmental spending (excluding spending on capital assets).

Trends in central government current expenditure can be affected by monthly changes in debt interest payments which can be volatile as they depend on the movements in the Retail Prices Index. Excluding debt interest makes this statistic less volatile.

There is however one regular peak in net social benefits, which are higher in November than in other months due to the annual payment of the winter fuel allowance.

Year on year growth in net social benefits is affected by the up-rating of benefits to compensate for inflation based on the Consumer Prices Index (CPI). For recent years these are 5.2% for the financial year ending 2013, 2.2% in the financial year ending 2014, 2.7% in the financial year ending 2015 and 1.2% in the financial year ending 2016. However, for State Pensions there is a “triple guarantee” that means that they are up-rated by the highest of the CPI, increases in earnings or 2.5%. Also since the financial year ending 2014 (April 2013 to March 2014), the up-rating only applies to benefits received by disabled people and pensioners – benefits for people of working age have only been increased by 1% in these 3 years.

It can be difficult to compare the profile of monthly central government expenditure even when excluding both debt interest and net social benefits. Since the financial year ending 2014, there have been continuous changes to the profile of central government grants to local government and a number of changes to central government funding for local authorities (in particular the timing of grants).

In the latest financial year (ending 2016), the Revenue Support Grant, the main general grant paid to local authorities has been paid with a third of the total in April and the remainder in equal instalments in all the other months, whereas last year more than half of it was paid in April with the bulk of the remaining balance paid in February. This means that for this financial year, other current expenditure growth in April and February will be lower while year on year growth in other months will generally be higher.

Current budget deficit

The gap between current expenditure and current receipts (having taken account of depreciation) is referred to as the current budget. When current expenditure is greater than current receipts (income), the public sector runs a current budget deficit.

In January 2016, the central government current budget deficit was in surplus by £17.8 billion, an increase in surplus of £0.9 billion, or 5.2% compared with January 2015.

In the current financial year-to-date (April 2015 to January 2016), the central government current budget deficit was £36.6 billion, a decrease of £10.8 billion, or 22.7% compared with the same period in the previous financial year.

Figure 7 illustrates that the central government current budget deficit (as a percentage of GDP) has reduced since the financial year ending 2010 (April 2009 to March 2010), but is still larger than before the global financial shock.

In recent years the current budget has been in deficit in most months. January and July tend to be surplus months as these are the 2 months with the highest receipts.

Net investment

Net investment represents the government’s spending on capital assets, like infrastructure projects, property and IT equipment, both as grants and by public sector bodies themselves minus capital receipts from the sale of capital assets.

In the financial year-to-date (April 2015 to January 2016), central government’s net investment was £26.5 billion, this represents an increase of £0.5 billion, or 2.0%, on the same period in the previous year and is largely due to increases in gross capital formation.

Central government net investment is difficult to predict in terms of its monthly profile as it includes some large capital grants (such as those to local authorities and education institutions) and can include some large capital acquisitions or disposals, all of which vary from year to year. Net investment in the last quarter of the financial year is usually markedly higher than that in the previous 3 quarters.

Central government net investment includes the direct acquisition minus disposal of capital assets (such as buildings, vehicles, computing infrastructure) by central government. It also includes capital grants to and from the private sector and other parts of the public sector. Capital grants are varied in nature and cover payments made to assist in the acquisition of a capital asset, payments made as a result of the disposal of a capital asset, transfers in ownership of a capital asset and the unreciprocated cancellation of a liability (that is conceding a debt will not be repaid).

The sum of net investment (spending on capital less capital receipts) and the current budget deficit constitute net borrowing.

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11. Recent events and methodological changes

Classification decisions

Each quarter we publish a Forward Workplan outlining the classification assessments we expect to undertake over the coming 12 months. To supplement this, each month a Classifications Update is published which announces classification decisions made and includes expected implementation points (for different statistics) where possible.

Classification decisions are reflected in the public sector finances at the first available opportunity and where necessary outlined in this section of the statistical bulletin.

Housing associations

This month’s bulletin includes the impact of the reclassification of English private registered providers of social housing (referred to in this bulletin as housing associations) from the private to the public corporation sector for the first time.

First estimates of the impact on public sector borrowing and public sector net debt were presented in the Public Sector Finances bulletin and OBR Forecast published in November 2015.

The reclassification of English private registered providers of social housing, announced on 30 October 2015, affects over 1,500 bodies providing social housing and applies back to July 2008 when the controls in the Housing and Regeneration Act 2008 came into force.

All registered private providers in England are required to complete regulatory returns to the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA). Details of the financial accounts of Housing providers that own or manage at least 1,000 social homes are published in the annual Global Accounts of Housing Providers.

In the financial year ending March 2015 these 329 providers owned 95% of the total stock. (Table 48 ‘Private Registered Provider Social Housing Stock in England’).

The impact of housing associations on public finances up to the financial year ending 2015

The impact of the housing association reclassification on public corporations’ net borrowing, net cash requirement and net debt are summarised in Table 6 of this release.

Estimates on the impact of the reclassification of housing associations on public sector finances, for the period from 2008 to the financial year ending 2015, are based on published HCA data.

Figures incorporate newly published data from the HCA for the financial year ending March 2015. Figures from the HCA’s Global Accounts are increased (grossed up) to incorporate an estimate of the impact of smaller providers.

In the financial year ending March 2015, the reclassification increases public corporations’ net borrowing by £3.6 billion. This compares with the previously published estimate of £4.5 billion. Much of this difference is due to replacing forecast figures for the financial year ending 2015 with data from HCA’s Global Accounts.

The reclassification increases public corporations’ net debt at the end of March 2015 by £59.8 billion. This compares with our earlier estimate of £59.0 billion.

The grossing up of estimates from Global Accounts to take into account small registered housing providers has negligible impact on public corporations’ net borrowing since grossing applies to both receipts and expenditure.

Grossing up figures for the net debt for small housing providers increases public corporations’ net debt by about 2.4% compared with figures taken from Global Accounts for larger providers. In the financial year ending March 2015, this increase equated to £1.4 billion.

Estimating the impact of housing associations on public finances in the financial year ending 2016

Estimates of the net cash requirement and net borrowing of housing associations for the financial year ending March 2016 have been taken directly from OBR’s Economic and Fiscal Outlook - November 2015.

Estimates of the net debt of housing associations within the financial year ending March 2016 are calculated from net debt at the end of March 2015 and the OBR forecast of housing associations’ net cash requirement for the financial year ending March 2016.

Assumptions made in producing estimates

It is important to realise that the estimates in this bulletin of the impact of the reclassification of housing associations are preliminary estimates which may be updated when new data become available or methodological improvements are made. At present, we are actively seeking alternative data sources to investigate the impact of smaller providers on net borrowing, net cash requirement and net debt.

We are also doing further work to test the assumptions that have been made in compiling the estimates. These were:

  • all housing association debt is assumed to be held by the private sector - the Quarterly Survey of Private Registered Providers for March 2015 showed that Banks, Building Societies and Capital markets contributed 99% to agreed sources of funding

  • the Global Accounts are collected for the entire financial year - monthly transactions were estimated by dividing the financial year figure by 12

  • providers which own less than 250 properties (less than 2% of the total stock) are assumed to have no net debt and not be investing in new properties

  • providers owning or managing 250-1000 properties are assumed to have the same gross debt per 1,000 properties as those owning or managing between 1,000 and 2,500 homes

  • the relative impact of small providers on the accounts is assumed to be constant between financial year ending 2009 and financial year ending 2015

Please note that the reclassification is being introduced in Public Sector Finances before implementation in the Quarterly National Accounts and Blue Book publications. Any work to improve the methods and data sources used in these estimates will be reflected in the National Accounts publications at the time the reclassification is implemented.

UK authorities receive final payment from Icesave

On 15 January 2016, HM Treasury announced that UK authorities have now recovered all of the British taxpayers’ money used to support Icesave deposit holders following the firm’s collapse in 2008.

This final payment of £740 million (of the £4.5 billion paid to UK depositors in Icesave) is reflected in the January 2016 central government net cash requirement (CGNCR) and public sector net debt (PSND) position but has no impact on public sector net borrowing.

Bank Corporation Tax surcharge

In July 2015, HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) published details of a surcharge to be levied on profits of banking companies in accounting periods beginning on or after 1 January 2016.

The measure imposes a surcharge of 8% on the profits of banking companies. The profits will be calculated and reported on the same basis as for corporation tax, but with some reliefs added back.

Share sales

In recent years the government has entered a program of selling shares in publicly owned organisations. For most share sales, the proceeds will reduce the central government net cash requirement (CGNCR) and public sector net debt (PSND) by an amount corresponding to the cash raised from the sale but have no impact on public sector net borrowing.

This section outlines the recent central government share sale program. In addition OBR discuss state-owned asset sales in their Economic and Fiscal Outlook November 2015 indicating expected proceeds from major asset sales Chart 4.9.

Lloyds Banking Group

On 17 September 2013, the UK government began selling part of its share holdings in Lloyds Banking Group (LBG). A further share sale on 23 and 24 March 2014 meant that the UK government surrendered in total a 13.5% stake in the institution, a quantity sufficient to lead to LBG being re-classified from a public sector body to a private sector body.

Based on the currently available information, we have recorded no LBG share sales in January 2016, though this may be revised at a later date.

Since December 2014, the government has continued reducing its shareholding in LBG via a pre-arranged trading plan, raising an estimated total of £16.2 billion to date.

In January 2016, the government announced that it would extend Lloyds’ trading plan for a further 6 months (ending no later than 30 June 2016). It stated that the current trading plan has reduced the government’s remaining stake in Lloyds to around 9%.

Royal Bank of Scotland

In August 2015, the government announced the sale of approximately 5.4% of its shareholding in Royal Bank of Scotland. The £2.1 billion raised from this sale reduced central government net cash requirement and net debt in August 2015 by a corresponding amount.

Royal Mail

In June 2015, the government announced the sale of half of its retained shareholding in Royal Mail. The £750 million raised from this sale of a 15% stake reduced central government net cash requirement and net debt in June 2015 by a corresponding amount.

Eurostar

In March 2015, the government announced the sale of its 40% stake in the cross-Channel train operator Eurostar. The £757 million raised from this sale reduced central government net cash requirement and net debt in May 2015 by a corresponding amount.

Bank of England Asset Purchase Facility Fund (APF)

The APF currently holds government securities (gilts) on which it earns interest and it pays interest on the reserves created by the Bank of England to finance it. These flows are reflected in PSNB ex as they enter and leave the APF. The net liabilities of the APF increase PSND ex.

On 9 November 2012, the Chancellor announced an agreement with the Bank of England to transfer the excess cash in the APF to the Exchequer. These flows are internal to the public sector and so do not affect PSNB ex.

Note this treatment follows the conclusion of the 2013 PSF Review consultation.

In January 2016, there was £1.9 billion transferred from the Bank of England Asset Purchase Facility Fund (BEAPFF) to HM Treasury, taking the amount transferred in the current financial year-to-date (April 2015 to January 2016) to £8.5 billion; £2.2 billion less than in the equivalent period in the previous financial year (April 2014 to January 2015).

In January 2016, there were £1.9 billion transferred from the Bank of England Asset Purchase Facility Fund (BEAPFF) to HM Treasury, taking the amount transferred in the current financial year-to-date (April 2015 to January 2016) to £8.5 billion; £2.2 billion less than in the equivalent period in 2014-2015 (April 2014 to January 2015).

The next expected APF transfer will occur in April 2016.

The Bank of England entrepreneurial income for the financial year ending 2015 (April 2014 to March 2015) was calculated as £12.5 billion. This is the total amount of dividend transfers that can impact on central government net borrowing in the financial year ending 2016 (April 2015 to March 2016).

Between April 2012 and March 2013, there were £11.3 billion of transfers from the BEAPFF to HM Treasury, while in the same period in financial year ending 2014 and 2015 the transfers were £31.1 billion and £10.7 billion respectively.

All cash transferred from the Asset Purchase Facility to HM Treasury is fully reflected in central government net cash requirement and net debt. For more detail of transactions relating to the Asset Purchase Facility, see Table PSA9.

EU contributions

Every year the European Commission (EC) reports retrospective adjustments to the EC budget contributions by EU member states based on the latest Value Added Tax (VAT) and gross national income (GNI) data.

In December 2014, the public sector finances recorded £2.9 billion of current expenditure in that month that related to increases in the UK contribution due to revised GNI data over a long historical period (as far back as 2002 for most member states). The gross liability of £2.9 billion for the UK arose in December 2014 and so has been recorded then, even though the cash was not paid by the UK government until 2015. The first cash payment of £0.4 billion (rounded) was made in July 2015, with the final payment of £2.4 billion (rounded) made in September 2015.

Previous month's bulletins have noted the existence of 2 transactions which offset this £2.9 billion:

  • a repayment (estimated by OBR as £1.2 billion) as the Commission returns all the member states’ additional contributions related to the data revisions

  • an increase in the UK rebate (estimated by the OBR as £0.8 billion) as a result of the UK's additional payment

The rebate is a regular transfer made by the EC to the UK. These transactions are reflected in the public sector finances when they occur (and are recorded as part of "Current transfers received from abroad" in Table PSA6E).

Of the £1.2 billion, £0.5 billion was received in February 2015, so the accrued impact on borrowing in February 2015 is £0.5 billion higher than the cash impact on the net cash requirement to account for the fact that the £1.2 billion repayment has already been recorded within the net borrowing of December 2014. The remaining £0.7 billion repayment was received in January 2016.

Grants to local government

The Revenue Support Grant (RSG) is the main revenue funding grant paid by central government to local government in England.

In the financial year ending 2015 (April 2014 to March 2015), more than half of the RSG was paid in April with the remaining balance paid in February and March. The payment profile has changed for the financial year ending 2016 (April 2015 to March 2016), with one-third of the grant paid in April and the rest expected to be paid evenly through the year.

This change in profile explains almost all of the fall in central government current transfers to local government and central government other current spending in April 2015 compared with April last year. The impact of this change is offset in local government net borrowing.

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12. Revisions since previous bulletin

In publishing monthly estimates, it is necessary that a range of different types of data sources are used. A summary of the different sources used and the implications this has for data revisions is provided in the document Sources summary and their timing.

The Public Sector Finances Revision Policy provides information of when users of the statistics published in the public sector finances and Government Deficit and Debt under the Maastricht Treaty statistical bulletins should expect to see methodological and data related revisions.

More detail of the methodology and sources employed can be found in the Public Sector Finances Methodological Guide.

Table 5 summarises revisions between the data contained in this bulletin and the previous publication.

The reported revisions are the result of both updated data sources and methodology changes introduced this month.

Methodology changes

Additional government revenue

In the November 2015 bulletin we announced a programme of quality assurance work by ONS and HM Treasury which had identified some additional departmental income that was not incorporated in the public sector finances. The inclusion this month, for the first time, of this departmental income has the effect of reducing central government net borrowing (CGNB) and subsequently public sector net borrowing (PSNB).

The inclusion of any additional income to the central government account will have the effect of reducing central government net borrowing (CGNB) and subsequently public sector net borrowing (PSNB).

Many of these income items are fees for services (which are recorded as negative current expenditure) and their inclusion this month has seen estimates of central government current expenditure reducing by £0.5 billion in the financial year ending March 2015 (April 2014 to March 2015). Further, as a result of this work, the estimate of current receipts has been increased by £0.3 billion over the same period.

Due to the limitations of the data available these additional revenue series are available from April 2008, with the intention of extending these data further back in time when the data becomes available.

In each of the 8 financial years, from the financial year ending March 2009 (April 2008 to March 2009) to the current financial year-to-date (April 2015 to December 2015), CGNB has been reduced by between £0.7 billion and £0.8 billion.

Work is continuing on the classification of additional revenue series which it is estimated, when implemented, will further reduce annual net borrowing by between £0.1 billion and £0.2 billion.

Housing associations

This month’s publication sees the reclassification of “private registered providers” of social housing in England from the private corporation sector to the public corporation sector being reflected in the public sector finance figures for the first time.

This reclassification has increased public corporation net debt (PCND) back to July 2008 as the outstanding debt of the social housing providers is added, along with increases to public corporation net borrowing (PCNB) and public corporation net cash requirement (PCNCR).

In each of the 8 financial years, from the financial year ending March 2009 (April 2008 to March 2009) to the current financial year-to-date (April 2015 to December 2015), PCNB has been revised up by between £2.2 billion and £3.6 billion.

PCND at the end of March 2015 has been increased by £59.8 billion.

Housing associations are discussed further in section 8, “Recent events and methodological changes”, while the full impact of the inclusion of housing associations in fiscal terms are summarised in Table 6 of this bulletin.

Public sector net borrowing (excluding public sector banks)

This month, revisions to net borrowing are largely the result of the methodology changes introduced (see above), although updated data sources do have an impact in the current financial year-to-date (April to December 2015).

PSNB ex in the current financial year-to-date (April to December 2015) was revised upwards by £3.5 billion; which reflects the inclusion of housing associations increasing public corporations’ net borrowing by £3.5 billion. Over the same period, an upward revision to the local government borrowing estimate is almost completely offset by downward revision to central government net borrowing.

Central government borrowing

Over the current financial year-to-date, central government net borrowing (CGNB) has been revised down by £1.1 billion.

Current receipts were revised down by £0.4 billion; social (national insurance) contributions were revised downward by £0.6 billion, while "other receipts" were revised upwards by £ 0.3 billion largely as a result of the inclusion of “additional government revenue” discussed previously. In addition, a £0.3 billion downward revision to income tax (largely due to a £0.5 billion downward revision to the PAYE estimate for December 2015) was partially offset within “taxes on income and wealth” by a £0.1 billion upward revision to corporation tax over the same month.

Current expenditure decreased by £1.1 billion, almost entirely to the “other” spending category, of which broadly £0.4 billion of the fall was to the inclusion of the negative expenditure element of the “additional government revenue” discussed previously. The remaining £0.7 billion reduction in spending was largely due to a reduction in the estimate of departmental spending on goods and services.

The £0.4 billion decrease in current receipts combined with the £1.1 billion reduction in the estimate of current expenditure led to a £0.7 billion decrease to the central government current budget deficit estimate.

This decrease in the current account combined with a £0.4 billion downward revision to the estimate of capital spending (net investment); largely due to changes in gross capital formation along with smaller changes to the estimate of capital transfers from central government, has resulted in a £1.1 billion decrease to the estimate of net borrowing in the current financial year-to-date.

Local government borrowing

Over the current financial year-to-date (April to December 2015), the estimate of local government net borrowing (LGNB) has increased by £1.1 billion. This revision reflects an update to the in-year estimate of local government spending on housing benefits.

Public corporations borrowing

The estimate of public corporation net borrowing (PCNB) over the current financial year-to-date has increased by £3.5 billion due to the inclusion of housing associations for the first time. Table 6 breaks down the components of the public corporations’ non-financial account that resulted in this increase in the borrowing estimate.

Public sector net debt (excluding public sector banks)

Public sector net debt (excluding public sector banks) (PSND ex) at the end of December 2015 has been revised up by £63.2 billion, almost entirely due to the inclusion of housing associations for the first time.

Public sector net cash requirement (excluding public sector banks)

Public sector net cash requirement (excluding public sector banks) (PSNCR ex) has been revised upward by £3.4 billion in the financial year-to-date (April to December 2015), almost entirely due to the inclusion of housing associations for the first time.

To provide users with an insight into the drivers of the historical revisions between publications, this bulletin presents 3 revisions tables:

  • Table PSA1R complements PSA1 and provides a revisions summary (between the current and previous publication) to headline statistics in this release

  • Table PSA2R complements PSA2 and provides the revisions (between the current and previous publication) to net borrowing by sector

  • Table PSA6R complements PSA6B and provides the revisions (between the current and previous publication) to the components of central government net borrowing

Tables PSA1R and PSA6R are published in excel format only in Appendix A to this release.

In addition, Appendix C to this bulletin presents a statistical analysis on several main components of the central government account (current receipts, current expenditure, net borrowing and net cash requirement) to determine whether their average revisions are statistically significant.

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13. New for the bulletin

Recent public sector finance articles

We are currently in the process of updating public sector finance guidance and methodology articles published on our website. Recently we have updated articles covering:

The reconciliation of net cash requirement to debt

The issues and subsequent revisions to CGNCR reported in November 2014 were identified through work undertaken to reconcile the 3 different fiscal measures (that is, net cash requirement, net borrowing and net debt) and to reconcile the central government net cash requirement with cash reported in audited resource accounts.

We are currently building these reconciliation processes into the monthly production systems. The first of these new reconciliations, Table REC3, attempts to reconcile central government net cash requirement and net debt.

Table REC3 is not currently designated a National Statistic and should be considered as a work-in-progress, with plans to introduce further refinements in the coming months.

UK Statistics Authority assessment of public sector finances

Alongside monitoring the production and publication of official statistics, the UK Statistics Authority's statutory function is to prepare, adopt and publish a Code of Practice for Statistics (in consultation with others as appropriate), setting out the standards that the Statistics Authority expects official statistics to meet. The Statistics Authority also determines whether official statistics comply with the Code and, if so, designates them with the quality mark “National Statistics”. The process of determining compliance with the Code and designation as National Statistics is known as “Assessment”.

On 8 November 2015, the UK Statistics Authority published its latest assessment report of public sector finances. The report confirmed the National Statistics status of the public sector finances bulletin subject to certain requirements being met.

We value your feedback

The public sector finances can be complex. To ensure these important statistics are accessible to all, we welcome your feedback on how best to explain concepts and trends in these data. Please contact us at: psa@ons.gsi.gov.uk

List of tables associated with this bulletin

  • PSA1 Public Sector Summary

  • PSA2 Public Sector Net Borrowing: by sector

  • PSA3 Public Sector Current Budget Deficit, Net Borrowing and Net Cash Requirement (excluding public sector banks)

  • PSA4 Public Sector Net Debt (excluding public sector banks)

  • PSA5A Long Run of Fiscal Indicators as a percentage of GDP on a financial year basis

  • PSA5B Long Run of Fiscal Indicators as a percentage of GDP on a quarterly basis*

  • PSA6A Net Borrowing: month and year-to-date comparisons

  • PSA6B Central Government Account: Overview

  • PSA6C Central Government Account: Total Revenue,Total Expenditure and Net Borrowing

  • PSA6D Central Government Account: Current Receipts

  • PSA6E Central Government Account: Current Expenditure

  • PSA6F Central Government Account: Net Investment

  • PSA6G Local Government Account: Overview*

  • PSA6H Local Government Account: Total Revenue, Total Expenditure and Net Borrowing*

  • PSA6I Local Government Account: Current Receipts*

  • PSA6J Local Government Account: Current Expenditure*

  • PSA6K Local Government Account: Net Investment*

  • REC1 Reconciliation of Public Sector Net Borrowing and Net Cash Requirement (excluding banking groups)

  • REC2 Reconciliation of Central Government Net Borrowing and Net Cash Requirement

  • PSA7A Public Sector Net Cash Requirement

  • PSA7B Public Sector Net Cash Requirement*

  • PSA7C Central Government Net Cash Requirement

  • PSA7D Central Government Net Cash Requirement on own account (receipts and outlays on a cash basis)

  • REC3 Reconciliation of Central Government Net Cash Requirement and Debt (Experimental Statistic)

  • PSA8A General Government Consolidated Gross Debt nominal values at end of period

  • PSA8B Public Sector Consolidated Gross Debt nominal values at end of period

  • PSA8C General Government Net Debt nominal values at end of period

  • PSA8D Public Sector Net Debt nominal values at end of period

  • PSA9 Bank of England Asset Purchase Facility Fund (APF)

  • PSA10 Public Sector transactions by sub-sector and economic category

  • PSA1R Public Sector Statistics: Revisions since last publication*

  • PSA2R Public Sector Net Borrowing: by sector; Revisions since last publication

  • PSA6R Central Government Account: overview; Revisions since last publication*

* These tables are published in Excel format only.

Appendices – Data in this release

  • Appendix A Public Sector Finances Tables 1 to 10

  • Appendix B Large impacts on public sector fiscal measures excluding financial intervention (one off events)

  • Appendix C Revisions Analysis on several main components of the central government account (current receipts, current expenditure, net borrowing and net cash requirement)

The following guidance documents aim to help users gain a detailed understanding of the public sector finances: Monthly statistics on Public Sector Finances: a methodological guide; Developments to Public Sector Finances Statistics and Quality and Methodology Information.

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14 .Background notes

  1. Data quality

    A summary quality report for the public sector finances is available on our website. This report describes in detail the intended uses of the statistics presented in this publication, their general quality and the methods used to produce them.

    An overview note on the data sources used within public sector finances and the quality assurance processes that are undertaken in compiling the statistical release was published on our website on 19 October 2012.

  2. Definitions

    A methodology guide to monthly public sector finance statistics is available on our website. It explains the concepts and measurement of the monthly data, plus those previously published, and gives some long runs of historical data. The following background notes provide further information regarding the monthly data.

  3. Range of measures published

    In this bulletin we publish the headline measures of borrowing and debt (PSNB ex and PSND ex) in tables as well as the wider measures of borrowing and debt that include public sectors banks.

    Since 1997, it has been an essential feature of the UK Public Sector Finances' fiscal measures that they are based on National Accounts and European Government Finance Statistics concepts. It is important that these fiscal measures continue to be aligned with these international standards to ensure a high degree of comparability between domestic and international measures and because the government bases its fiscal policy on these aligned measures.

  4. Coherence

    EU Council Directive 2011/85/EU (part of the enhanced EU economic governance package regulations known as the "6 pack") includes statistical requirements for government finance statistics relating to the monthly publication of statistics and annual publication of specific contingent liabilities and other potential liabilities. Tables PSA6C and PSA6H were introduced in 2014 into the PSF bulletin in order to fully comply with the monthly government finance statistics requirements.

    On 22 December 2014, we published for the first time the required information on government contingent liabilities and other potential liabilities. The latest update to these figures was published on 22 December 2015 alongside an article setting out the wider background to different debt measures used in the UK.

    The Public Sector Finances (PSF) has a more flexible revisions policy than other National Accounts data. Therefore, PSF data may be inconsistent with the published GDP and Sector and Financial Accounts datasets because a revision may not be incorporated into the main National Accounts dataset until a later date. More information can be found in the Public Sector Finances Revision Policy.

    General government net borrowing and gross consolidated debt reported in this bulletin are calculated following the rules of the European System of Accounts 2010 (ESA 2010) and are the same in definition as the General Government Debt and Deficit monitored under the Maastricht Treaty. This was most recently reported on 15 January 2016, with the next publication scheduled for 15 April 2016.

    When calculating debt as a percentage of GDP in the bulletin on EU Government Debt and Deficit the general government gross debt at the end of the year is divided by the GDP for the previous 12 months. This methodology is adopted to be consistent with Eurostat publications which report on Maastricht debt for all EU countries.

    However, when calculating public sector net debt as a percentage of GDP in the UK public sector finances the debt figure is divided by an annual GDP figure which is centred on the month to which the debt relates. To be consistent the general government gross debt as a percentage of GDP in the public sector finances is calculated using the same centred GDP figure. More information can be found in an article on the use of GDP in the fiscal ratio statistics.

    Tax receipts data published in this bulletin are presented in terms of broad tax categories (for example, Income Tax, VAT). For more detail on individual taxes users can go to the HM Revenue & Customs website and access a monthly publication which provides cash tax receipts data which are entirely consistent with the data published in Table PSF5A and B of the bulletin.

  5. OSCAR - Online System for Central Accounting and Reporting

    In June 2010, HM Treasury published as part of the government transparency agenda, raw data from the COINS database (the predecessor to OSCAR) for the financial years ending 2006 to 2010. From September 2012 onwards the data releases have been made from OSCAR, the replacement for COINS. The latest in-year quarterly data will be released on 22 December 2015, alongside this release, and the latest annual data were released on 20 November 2015. The data are accessible from HM Treasury’s website.

  6. Accuracy

    Central government departmental expenditure data are subject to various validation processes and improve over time. They go through 4 main stages:

    • stage 1 – initially, they are estimated using in-year reported data
    • stage 2 – in the July following the completion of the financial year, departments update their full financial year estimates (but with no in-year profile), for publication in the Treasury’s Public Spending National Statistics annual publication; these estimates will be in line with the audited resource accounts for most departments
    • stage 3 – for the autumn update of the Treasury’s Public Spending National Statistics these financial year estimates are updated
    • stage 4 – in March the following year the winter update of the Treasury’s Public Spending National Statistics is published and the financial year estimates are further improved; all departments’ and devolved administrations’ accounts will have been audited and finalised by this stage; these revisions are not normally included in the public sector finances statistical bulletin until the September release

    Data up to and including the financial year ending 2013 (April 2012 to March 2013) and the financial year ending 2014 (April 2013 to March 2014) are at Stage 4, while data for the financial year ending 2015 (April 2014 to March 2015) are at Stage 2 and data for the financial year ending 2016 (April 2015 to March 2016) are at stage 1.

    The local government data for the financial year ending 2011, 2012 and 2013 for local authorities are based on final outturns for receipts and expenditure.

    Data for the financial year ending 2014 (April 2013 to March 2014) and the financial year ending 2015 (April 2014 to March 2015) are mainly based on final outturns (provisional outturns have been used for Scotland).

    Estimates for financial year ending 2016 (April 2015 to March 2016) are based on a combination of in-year returns and forecast data. These are subject to revision when outturn data become available.

  7. Revisions

    We define a revision as a scheduled change to any published ONS output which may be made in order to incorporate better source data or to reflect improved methodology.

    The Public Sector Finances Revision Policy is published on our website. It was last updated in September 2015.

    Appendix C to the monthly public sector finance statistical bulletin presents revisions analysis to a number of main central government measures (current receipts, current expenditure, net borrowing and net cash requirement).

    By applying a statistical significance test, this analysis investigates the size and direction of revisions from each measure’s first publication to that recorded a year later. An average of 5 years worth of such revisions is used to identify any statistical bias.

    These indicators only provide summary measures of revisions; the revised data may still be subject to measurement error.

    Currently data for the public sector banks are only available for periods up to June 2015. Values for months from July 2015 onwards are our estimates. Consequently these, and the aggregates which include the impacts of financial interventions, may be revised substantially when actual data becomes available.

  8. The alignment of public sector finance with EU Government Deficit and Debt return

    Each quarter (March, June, September and December) public sector finance (PSF) data are aligned to the data reported in the EU Government Deficit and Debt return to take advantage of the more detailed quarterly data underpinning the latter publication.

    In order for the latest month and financial year-to-date to reflect the latest available information, while ensuring coherence between the EU Government Deficit and Debt Return output and the PSF statistical bulletin:

    • the latest reported month reflects the most up-to-date PSF data available
    • the quarterly data in the periods common to both the EU Government Deficit and Debt Return and PSF are aligned
    • the estimates for the month immediately prior to the latest month (and following that aligned to the EU Government Deficit and Debt Return) are calculated by taking the latest data for the cumulative financial year-to-date and subtracting both the cumulative totals for those aligned quarters in the financial year and the latest month estimates.

    For example, in the PSF published in September:

    • the August estimates use the latest reported data
    • the PSF data in the period April to June are aligned to the EU Government Deficit and Debt Return
    • the July figures are derived from the financial year-to-date (April to August) less the sum of the aligned period (April to June) and August.

    This alignment process results in a temporary adjustment to the published monthly profiles which will unwind in the dataset reported in the bulletin published in the following month which is then de-coupled from the EU Government Deficit and Debt Return to reflect the latest available data.

    In the example above, the derived estimate to July may revise substantially to reflect the latest monthly path.

    This phenomenon is discussed further in the Public Sector Finances Revision Policy.

  9. Publication policy

    A brief paper explaining the roles and responsibilities of ONS and HM Treasury when producing and publishing the public sector finances statistical release is on our website.

    A note on the main uses and users of the public sector finances statistics is available on our website.

    Recommendations for the improvement of the public sector finances statistical bulletin may be emailed to psa@ons.gsi.gov.uk

    Details of the policy governing the release of new data are available from our Media Relations Office. National Statistics are produced to high professional standards set out in the Code of Practice for Official Statistics. They undergo regular quality assurance reviews to ensure that they meet customer needs. They are produced free from any political interference. Details of the policy governing the release of new data are available by visiting the UK Statistics Authority website or from the Media Relations Office email: media.relations@ons.gsi.gov.uk

    These National Statistics are produced to high professional standards and released according to the arrangements approved by the UK Statistics Authority.

    Special arrangements apply to the public sector finances, which is produced jointly with HM Treasury. A list of ministers and officials with pre-publication access to the contents of this bulletin is available on request. In addition some members of the Treasury’s Fiscal Statistics and Policy (FSP) team will have access to them at all stages, because they are involved in the compilation or quality assurance of data, and some members of the Treasury’s Communications team will see the bulletin, but only within the 24 hour pre-release period, because they place these data on the website.

    The UK Statistics Authority has designated these statistics as National Statistics, in accordance with the Statistics and Registration Service Act 2007 and signifying compliance with the Code of Practice for Official Statistics.

    Designation can be broadly interpreted to mean that the statistics:

    • meet identified user needs
    • are well explained and readily accessible
    • are produced according to sound methods
    • are managed impartially and objectively in the public interest

    Once statistics have been designated as National Statistics it is a statutory requirement that the Code of Practice shall continue to be observed.

    Public sector finance data series previously published in Financial Statistics are made available for download on the public sector finances web page. Tables 1.2A, 1.3A and 1.4A which are updated monthly will continue to be available monthly, published concurrently with the PSF Supplementary data, while Tables 1.3B, 1.3C and 1.3D will be available quarterly.

  10. Following ONS

    As part of our continuous engagement strategy, comments are welcomed on ways in which the public sector finances statistical bulletin might be improved. Please email: psa@ons.gsi.gov.uk

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  11. Details of the policy governing the release of new data are available by visiting www.statisticsauthority.gov.uk/assessment/code-of-practice/index.html or from the Media Relations Office email: media.relations@ons.gsi.gov.uk

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15 . Methodology

Contact details for this Statistical bulletin

Fraser Munro
fraser.munro@ons.gsi.gov.uk
Telephone: +44 (0)1633 456402