Public sector finances, UK: November 2019

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

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9 January 2020 14:39

An error has been identified in the text of the Public sector finances release originally published on 20 December 2019. This error has been corrected.

In section 8, when describing an adjustment we have applied to local government budget forecast data, we stated that for the financial year ending March 2020, we had introduced a £1.2 billion downward adjustment to England current expenditure. The correct figure is £2.0 billion.

This error is limited to the text only and does not affect any statistics presented in the release.

We apologise for this error and for any inconvenience caused.

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This is an accredited national statistic.

Contact:
Email Fraser Munro

Release date:
20 December 2019

Next release:
22 January 2020

1. Main points

  • Borrowing (public sector net borrowing excluding public sector banks, PSNB ex) in November 2019 was £5.6 billion, £0.2 billion more than in November 2018; this is the highest November borrowing for two years (since November 2017).

  • Borrowing in the current financial year-to-date (April 2019 to November 2019) was £50.9 billion, £5.1 billion more than in the same period last year; this is the highest April-to-November borrowing for two years (since 2017), though April-to-November 2018 remains the lowest in such a period for 12 years (since 2007).

  • Debt (public sector net debt excluding public sector banks, PSND ex) at the end of November 2019 was £1,808.8 billion (or 80.6% of gross domestic product (GDP)), an increase of £39.4 billion (or a decrease of 0.8 percentage points) on November 2018.

  • Debt at the end of November 2019 excluding the Bank of England (mainly quantitative easing) was £1,626.6 billion (or 72.5% of GDP); this is an increase of £46.9 billion (or a decrease of 0.2 percentage points) on November 2018.

  • Central government net cash requirement was £42.5 billion in the current financial year-to-date; this is £20.2 billion more than in the same period in the previous year.

  • Central government net cash requirement excluding both UK Asset Resolution Ltd and Network Rail was £42.4 billion in the current financial year-to-date; this is £18.4 billion more than in the same period last year.

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2. What has changed in this release?

This section presents information on aspects of data or methodology that have been introduced or improved since the publication of the previous bulletin (21 November 2019), along with supporting information that users may find useful.

Network Rail capital expenditure

This month we found and corrected an error in our Network Rail capital expenditure data for the financial year ending March 2019. As a result of correcting this error, central government net investment has been reduced by £1.0 billion. Central government net borrowing and public sector net borrowing have been reduced by the same amount. No other time periods were affected.

We apologise for any inconvenience caused.

UK contributions to the European Union

The UK contributions to the European Union (EU) in November 2019 were £0.3 billion, a £0.7 billion decrease on November 2018. There are two reasons for the significantly lower payment in November of this year, compared with 2018.

Firstly, the EU requested less from Member States in November 2019, than requested in November 2018. Additionally, in November 2019, the UK received a credit against its Gross National Income (GNI) and Value Added Tax (VAT) contribution because of an EU Budget Surplus for 2018, which was distributed to all Member States.

Monthly transactions are often affected by the timings of payments and so caution should be taken when drawing conclusions from monthly data.

Corporation Tax credits

Corporation Tax credits data are updated by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) each autumn to take account of the latest outturn data. The inclusion of these latest data has resulted in largely offsetting revisions to central government receipts and expenditure, from April 2014 to date.

OBR restated forecast December 2019

On 16 December 2019, the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) published a technical restatement of their March 2019 forecast for the public finances. This brings their forecast into line with current ONS statistical treatment - for example, to include the new treatment of student loans implemented in September 2019.

Table 1 compares forecasts for the main fiscal aggregates published in OBR's Economic and Fiscal Outlook EFO - March 2019 for the financial year ending March 2020 with those presented in the December 2019 technical restatement.

These restated forecasts are reflected in this bulletin.

Country and regional public sector finances

On 20 December 2019, we published the latest release of our regular Country and regional public sector finances articles. This release, Country and regional public sector finances: financial year ending 2019, includes a summary of net fiscal balance, total revenue and total expenditure by country and region within the UK.

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3. Borrowing

In November 2019, the public sector spent more money than it received in taxes and other income, meaning it had to borrow £5.6 billion, £0.2 billion more than in November 2018. Of this £5.6 billion, central government borrowed £4.0 billion and local government borrowed £2.4 billion. The Bank of England’s contribution to net borrowing was a surplus of £0.9 billion.

Figure 1 presents both monthly and cumulative public sector net borrowing excluding public sector banks (PSNB ex) in the current financial year-to-date (April 2019 to November 2019) and compares these with the same period in the previous financial year.

Figure 2 summarises public sector net borrowing (PSNB) by sub-sector in November 2019 and compares this with the equivalent measures in the same month a year earlier (November 2018). This presentation splits PSNB ex into each of its five sub-sectors: central government, local government, non-financial public corporations, public sector pensions and the Bank of England.

The data for the latest months of every release contain a degree of forecasts. This is because profiles of tax receipts, along with departmental and local government spending, are still provisional. This means that the data for these months are typically more prone to revision than other months and can be subject to sizeable revisions in later months.

Central government receipts in November 2019 increased by £0.9 billion (or 1.6%) to £58.1 billion, compared with November 2018, while total central government expenditure decreased by £0.2 billion (or 0.3%) to £59.7 billion.

Of this £59.7 billion, £57.4 billion related to the cost of the "day-to-day" activities of the public sector (the current expenditure), while £2.2 billion was capital spending (or net investment), such as on infrastructure.

The £0.9 billion growth in central government receipts was largely because of a £0.6 billion increase in National Insurance contributions, a £0.3 billion increase in interest and dividends receipts, and an increase of £0.2 billion in other receipts.

November-accrued Corporation Tax receipts decreased by £0.3 billion compared with November 2018, while there was negligible growth (less than £0.1 billion) in Value Added Tax (VAT) receipts over the same period. However, it is important to note that both of these taxes contain forecast cash receipts data and are liable to revision as actual cash receipts data are received.

Departmental expenditure on goods and services increased by £2.3 billion, compared with November 2018, including a £1.3 billion increase in expenditure on staff costs and a £0.7 billion increase in the purchase of goods and services.

The UK contributions to the European Union (EU) in November 2019 were £0.3 billion; a £0.7 billion decrease on November 2018. This reduction in payments is a combination of the timing of payments made by the UK and the receipt of a credit distributed to all member states.

Interest payments on the government’s outstanding debt decreased by £0.9 billion, compared with November 2018. Changes in debt interest are largely a result of movements in the Retail Prices Index (RPI) to which index-linked bonds are pegged. The relationship between the RPI and the valuation index-linked bonds is explored further in the Public sector finances Quality and Methodology Information (QMI) report.

Local government net borrowing grew by £1.2 billion compared with November 2018, mainly because of reductions in transfers received from central government, particularly capital grants. There were smaller changes in other components. Local government data are mainly based on budget data for England, Wales and Scotland for the financial year ending (FYE) March 2020. This month we have introduced final capital outturn figures for the FYE March 2019. These figures have further informed our forecasts for the current financial year.

Public corporations' data remain initial estimates, based on the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) forecasts. Current and capital transfers between these sectors and central government are based on administrative data supplied by HM Treasury.

Pensions data for the current financial year are our estimates based on the latest available data. Some of these estimates rely on actuarial modelling - 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.

Because of the volatility of the monthly data, the cumulative financial year-to-date borrowing figures often provide a better indication of the position of the public sector finances than the individual months' figures. Figure 3 summarises the contributions of each sub-sector to public sector net borrowing excluding public sector banks (PSNB ex) in the latest financial year-to-date (April 2019 to November 2019) and compares these with the same period last year.

In the current financial year-to-date (April 2019 to November 2019), public sector spending exceeded the money received in taxes and other income. This meant the public sector had to borrow £50.9 billion, £5.1 billion more than the same period last year.

Of the £50.9 billion borrowed by the public sector in this period, £24.8 billion related to the cost of the “day-to-day” activities of the public sector (the current budget deficit), while £26.1 billion was capital spending (or net investment), such as on infrastructure.

The difference between central government’s income and spending makes the largest contribution to the amount borrowed by the public sector.

In the latest financial year-to-date, central government receipts grew by 2.1% on the same period last year to £485.7 billion, including £356.5 billion in tax revenue.

Over the same period, central government spent £514.6 billion, an increase of 2.8%. Of this amount, around two-thirds was spent by central government departments (Education, Defence, and Health and Social Care); just below one-third was spent on social benefits (such as pensions, unemployment payments, Child Benefit and Statutory Maternity Pay); and the remainder was spent on capital investment and interest on the government’s outstanding debt.

Figure 4 shows annual borrowing has generally been falling since the peak in the FYE March 2010 (April 2009 to March 2010).

In the latest full financial year (April 2018 to March 2019), the £38.1 billion (or 1.8% of gross domestic product, GDP) borrowed by the public sector was around a quarter (24.1%) of the amount seen in the FYE March 2010, when borrowing was £158.3 billion (or 10.2% of GDP).

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4. 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), which has been built up by successive government administrations over many years. When the government borrows, this normally adds to the debt total, but it is important to remember that reducing the deficit is not the same as reducing the debt.

At the end of November 2019, the amount of money owed by the public sector to the private sector stood at just above £1.8 trillion (Figure 5), which equates to 80.6% of the value of all the goods and services currently produced by the UK economy in a year (or gross domestic product, GDP).

The Bank of England's contribution to net debt is largely a product of their quantitative easing measures, namely the Bank of England Asset Purchase Facility Fund (BEAPFF) and the Term Funding Scheme (TFS). If we were to exclude the Bank of England from our calculation of PSND ex, it would reduce by £182.2 billion, from £1,808.8 billion to £1,626.6 billion, or from 80.6% of GDP to 72.5%.

Figure 6 breaks down outstanding public sector net debt (PSND) at the end of November 2019 into the sub-sectors of the public sector. In addition to PSND ex, this presentation includes the effect of public sector banks on debt.

Figure 7 incorporates the borrowing components detailed in Figure 3 to show how the differences between income and spending (both current and capital) have led to the accumulation of debt in the current financial year-to-date (April 2019 to November 2019).

The reconciliation between public sector net borrowing (PSNB) and the net cash requirement is presented in more detail in Table REC1 in the Public sector finances tables 1 to 10: Appendix A dataset.

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5. Revisions

Revisions can be the result of both updated data sources and methodology changes. This month, revisions to public sector finance statistics are a result of updated data and a correction to Network Rail capital expenditure data (see Section 2). There are no methodology changes this month.

Each quarter (March, June, September and December), we take advantage of the compilation of the national accounts and EU Government Finance Statistics (GFS) dataset to improve the quality of the public sector finance dataset. In addition to taking the latest data from our suppliers, this month we have sourced additional data from the GFS dataset for the period January 2018 to September 2019.

As is often the case in these quarters, revisions to central government expenditure (and so net borrowing) are more pronounced in the latest month (in this case October 2019). This is a temporary phenomenon resulting in the alignment of the GFS and PSF datasets. The GFS dataset is finalised before the PSF dataset, so to maintain alignment, late revisions, which would in normal circumstances be spread across the financial year-to-date, are applied to October. This is a regular process and these revisions will unwind across the whole period in the next PSF publication.

Further, we have updated national non-domestic (business) rates for the period April 2016 to date, updated Corporation Tax credits from April 2014 to date and corrected Network Rail gross fixed capital formation for the financial year ending March 2019.

Revisions summary

Table 2 shows the revisions to the headline statistics presented in this bulletin compared with those presented in the previous bulletin (published on 21 November 2019).

Revisions to public sector net borrowing excluding public sector banks in the current financial year-to-date (April to October 2019)

The data for the latest months of every release contain a degree of forecasts. The initial outturn estimates for the early months of the financial year, particularly April, contain more forecast data than other months. This is because profiles of tax receipts, along with departmental and local government spending, are still provisional. This means that the data for these months are typically more prone to revision than other months and can be subject to sizeable revisions in later months.

Public sector net borrowing excluding public sector banks (PSNB ex) in the current financial year-to-date (April to October 2019) has been revised down by £1.0 billion compared with figures presented in the previous bulletin (published on 21 November 2019) as a result of new data.

Central government receipts decreased by £0.6 billion. Notably, a reduction to previous estimates of interest and dividends, and Income Tax receipts of £1.1 billion and £0.6 billion respectively were partially offset by increases in business rates, Value Added Tax and Corporation Tax of £0.7 billion, £0.4 billion and £0.4 billion respectively.

Central government current expenditure decreased by £0.8 billion, again mainly because of regular data updates.

Expenditure of goods and services decreased by £0.6 billion, of which, previous estimates of depreciation and staff costs were reduced by £0.2 billion and £0.3 billion respectively. Previous estimates of subsidies increased by £0.3 billion, largely because of an update in Corporation Tax credits.

Current grants to local government decreased by £0.2 billion, because of regular data updates. This £0.2 billion decrease in current transfers from central to local government in the current financial year-to-date, while reducing central government borrowing, has increased local government borrowing by an equal and offsetting amount.

Further, the previous forecast of local government gross fixed capital formation has been reduced by £0.4 billion as a result of updated in-year estimates from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.

Figure 8 summarises the revisions to PSNB ex by sub-sector, comparing the latest estimates of borrowing with those presented in the previous bulletin (published on 21 November 2019). This presentation splits the revisions to PSNB ex into each of its five sub-sectors: central government, local government, non-financial public corporations, public sector pensions and the Bank of England.

Revisions to public sector net borrowing excluding public sector banks in earlier financial years

There have also been revisions to PSNB ex for the financial years ending March 2019 (April 2018 to March 2019) and ending March 2018 (April 2017 to March 2018).

Financial year ending March 2019

PSNB ex in the financial year ending March 2019 has been revised down by £3.3 billion compared with figures presented in the previous bulletin (published on 21 November 2019) as a result of new data.

Central government net borrowing

Central government net borrowing was revised down by £1.4 billion. In the current account, alignment with published business rates receipts for Scotland has increased previous estimates by £0.5 billion, while updates to Corporation Tax credits have increased both Corporation Tax receipts and expenditure on subsidies by £0.8 billion.

We have corrected an error in our Network Rail capital expenditure data. This has reduced central government net investment by £1.0 billion, and therefore reduced central government and public sector borrowing by the same amount.

Local government net borrowing

Local government net borrowing has been reduced by £1.4 billion, largely because of an increase of £0.4 billion in Council Tax receipts combined with a reduction of £0.8 billion to net investment.

A switch from capital grants to loans by the Greater London Authority in their capital outturn return has resulted in a reduction of £0.4 billion in each of the four quarters in the financial year. The reduction of £1.6 billion in capital expenditure has been partially offset by a £0.8 billion increase in gross fixed capital formation, as previous forecast data has been replaced with outturn data.

Public corporations’ net borrowing

Public corporations’ net borrowing has been reduced by £0.4 billion, as previous forecasts have been replaced by data sourced from the Whole of Government Accounts and Housing Revenue Account final outturn data for England and Wales.

Financial year ending March 2018

PSNB ex in the financial year ending March 2018 has been revised down by £0.3 billion compared with figures presented in the previous bulletin (published on 21 November 2019) as a result of new data.

Central government net borrowing was revised down by £0.2 billion, with previous estimates of business rates receipts increasing by £0.1 billion. Because of an update in Corporation Tax credits, Corporation Tax receipts increased by £0.6 billion, while expenditure on subsidies increased by £0.4 billion.

Over the same period, local government net borrowing increased by £0.1 billion, while public corporations’ net borrowing decreased by £0.2 billion.

Revisions to public sector net debt excluding public sector banks

Public sector net debt excluding public sector banks (PSND ex) at the end of October 2019 has been revised up by £2.6 billion compared with that presented in the previous bulletin (published on 21 November 2019). This is largely because of of an increase of £3.0 billion to the previous estimate of local government loans data.

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6. Public sector finances data

Datasets supporting this publication are available in appendices to the bulletin.

Public sector finances borrowing by sub-sector

This release contains 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

The data underlying the public sector finances statistical bulletin are presented in the tables PSA 1 to 10.

Large impacts on public sector fiscal measures excluding banking groups: Appendix B

Large events that impact on the current PSNB ex and PSND ex from the period May 2000 onwards. Impacts are shown for the components of public sector net borrowing, net cash requirement and net debt.

Public sector finances revisions analysis on main fiscal aggregates: Appendix C

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

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.

IMF's Government Finance Statistics framework in the public sector finances: Appendix E

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.

Revisions to the first reported estimate of public sector net borrowing: Appendix F

Summarises revisions to the first estimate of UK public sector borrowing (excluding public sector banks) by sub-sector for the last six financial years. Revisions are shown at 6 and 12 months after year-end.

Impact of student loans, public sector-funded pension scheme changes and capital consumption changes introduced in September 2019: Appendix G

Presents our latest estimates of PSNB (and further into current budget deficit and net investment spending), net debt and net financial liabilities with the impacts of changes to the accounting for student loans, public sector pensions and capital consumption introduced in September 2019.

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7. Glossary

The public sector

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 and public financial corporations (or public sector banks).

Public sector current budget deficit

Public sector current budget is the difference between revenue (taxes, and so on) and current expenditure, on an accrued basis – 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

Net investment refers to the balance of acquisition less disposals of capital assets and liabilities.

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)). Public sector net borrowing (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. Public sector net debt (PSND) is often referred to by commentators as “the national debt”.

While borrowing (or the deficit) represents the difference between total spending and receipts over a period of time, debt represents the total amount of money owed at a point in time.

The national debt has been built up by successive government administrations over many years. When the government borrows (that is, runs a deficit), this normally adds to the debt total, so reducing the deficit is not the same as reducing the debt.

Other important terms commonly used to describe public sector finances are listed in the PSF glossary.

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8. Measuring the data

The Public sector finances Quality and Methodology Information (QMI) report contains important information on:

  • the strengths and limitations of the data and how it compares with related data

  • the uses and users of the data

  • how the output was created

  • the quality of the output including the accuracy of the data

The public sector finances 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.

How do our figures compare with official forecasts?

The independent Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) is responsible for the production of official forecasts for government. These forecasts are usually produced twice a year, in spring and autumn.

On 16 December 2019, the OBR published a technical restatement of their March 2019 forecast for the public finances. This brings their forecast into line with current Office for National Statistics (ONS) statistical treatment - for example, to include the new treatment of student loans implemented in September 2019. These restated forecasts are reflected in this bulletin.

Table 3 compares the current outturn estimates for each of our main public sector excluding public sector banks aggregates for the current financial year-to-date with corresponding latest OBR forecasts for the following financial year. In addition, Table 6 compares the latest full financial year (April 2018 to March 2019) outturn estimates with those of the previous financial year.

Caution should be taken when comparing public sector finances data with the OBR figures for the full financial year. Data are not finalised until sometime after the financial year ends, with initial estimates made soon after the end of the financial year often subject to sizeable revisions in later months as forecasts are replaced with audited outturn data. There may also be known methodological differences between the OBR forecasts and outturn data.

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’s 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.

Local government forecasts

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.

In September 2019, we incorporated provisional outturn data and removed our underspend adjustment for current expenditure in England over the financial year ending (FYE) March 2019, along with our underspend adjustment for both England and Scotland capital expenditure over the same period.

For the FYE March 2020, we have introduced a £2.0 billion downward adjustment to England current expenditure, along with £0.7 billion and £0.2 billion adjustments to Scotland and Wales capital expenditure respectively.

Further information on these and additional adjustments can be found in the Public sector finances QMI report.

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9. Recent developments

This section explains the main methodology changes introduced to public sector finance statistics in September 2019 and presents estimates of our headline measures of public sector net borrowing excluding public sector banks (PSNB ex), public sector net debt excluding public sector banks (PSND ex) and public sector net financial liabilities excluding public sector banks (PSNFL ex) had these changes not been introduced.

Public sector pensions

We have adopted a new, gross presentation of funded employment-related pensions. This change, predominantly presentational in nature, has greatly increased the volume of assets recorded on the public sector balance sheet but consolidated many inter-public sector balances and transactions. We now also include the Pension Protection Fund within the public sector boundary.

These changes have reduced PSND ex at the end of March 2019 by £28.6 billion, reflecting the consolidation of gilts and recognition of liquid assets held by the public pension schemes.

Student loans

Improvements in the statistical treatment of student loans have added £12.4 billion to PSNB ex in the financial year ending (FYE) March 2019. Outlays are no longer all treated as conventional loans. Instead, we split lending into two components: a genuine loan to students and government spending. This new approach recognises that a significant proportion of student loan debt will never be repaid. We record government expenditure related to the expected cancellation of student loans in the period that loans are issued. Further, government revenue no longer includes interest accrued that will never be paid.

Capital consumption

In June 2019, we announced our intention to introduce a number of improvements to the estimation of capital stocks and therefore the consumption of fixed capital in September 2019. These improvements included a review of:

  • the life length of fixed assets

  • the classification of stocks by asset, industry and the institutional sector

  • the modelling of the age-efficiency profile of capital assets

Any updates to capital consumption are PSNB ex neutral and have no impact on PSND ex or PSNFL ex.

The impact of these developments

Tables 4, 5 and 6 present our latest estimates of PSNB ex, PSND ex and PSNFL ex with the impact of the methodology changes introduced in September 2019 removed.

Impact of student loans, public sector-funded pension scheme changes and capital consumption changes introduced in September 2019: Appendix G expands this presentation to include the impact on current budget deficit and net investment and also provides additional quarterly and monthly time series. We plan to continue publishing updated versions of these tables until the end of the current financial year (April 2020).

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10. Looking ahead

This section presents information on aspects of data or methodology that are planned but not yet included in the public sector finances.

Looking ahead - developments in public sector finance statistics

On 31 May 2019, we published the second in our series of development articles, Looking ahead - developments in public sector finance statistics: 2019. In this article, we listed a number of short-term areas of work that we aim to implement in public sector finance statistics within 18 months from the date of this publication. These include:

  • treatment of student loans (subsequently introduced in September 2019)

  • presentation of pension data on a gross basis (subsequently introduced in September 2019)

  • International Monetary Fund's (IMF) Government Finance Statistics Framework ) (subsequently introduced in October 2019)

  • treatment of capital consumption, or depreciation (subsequently introduced in September 2019)

  • continuous development of public sector net financial liabilities (PSNFL)

  • recording of leases

The article also provides some detail on the areas of planned medium- and longer-term development.

Ongoing developments in public sector finance statistics

This section presents information on our current continuous improvement projects and methodological decisions that are planned but not yet included in the public sector finances.

Thomas Cook Group plc

On 23 September 2019, winding up orders were made against Thomas Cook Group plc and associated companies. The court appointed the Official Receiver as the liquidator. We will investigate any implications of this decision on the public sector and announce the results in due course.

Clinical Negligence Indemnity Cover

On 1 April 2019, the government announced the Clinical Negligence Scheme for General Practice (CNSGP), operated by NHS Resolution on behalf of the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care.

The scheme provides comprehensive cover to all General Practitioners (GPs) and their wider practice team for clinical negligence relating to NHS services occurring from 1 April 2019. In parallel, the government has agreed commercial terms with the Medical Protection Society covering claims for historical NHS clinical negligence incidents concerning their GP members occurring at any time before 1 April 2019.

We are currently assessing the implications of this scheme for the public sector finances and will announce our findings at the earliest opportunity.

EU withdrawal agreement

Although the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) discusses the EU settlement in their Economic and Fiscal Outlook (EFO) - March 2019 report, the details in the report are still subject to negotiation.

There is insufficient certainty at this stage for us to complete a formal assessment of the impact on the UK public sector finances.

On 28 January 2019, former National Statistician John Pullinger released a statement outlining our legislative preparations for a possible no-deal Brexit.

East Coast Mainline

On 16 May 2018, the government announced that from 24 June 2018, London North Eastern Railway (LNER) will take over the running of East Coast Mainline services. On 31 August 2018, we announced that LNER would be classified to the public non-financial corporations sub-sector, effective from 14 February 2018. We are currently investigating the implications of this decision and our conclusions will be announced in due course.

Carillion insolvency

Following Carillion Plc declaring insolvency on 15 January 2018, the UK government announced that it would provide the funding required by the Official Receiver, to ensure continuity of public services through an orderly liquidation. The Official Receiver has been appointed by the court as liquidator, along with partners at PwC that have been appointed as Special Managers. The defined benefit pension schemes of former Carillion employees are currently being assessed by the Pension Protection Fund prior to any transition into the Pension Protection Fund scheme.

We are currently investigating the various impacts of the liquidation of Carillion on the public sector finances, including in relation to the public-private partnership projects in which Carillion was involved and the additional funding that the government has provided to maintain public services. We will announce our findings in due course.

Prior to liquidation, Carillion held approximately 450 contracts with government, representing 38% of Carillion’s 2016 reported revenue.

Sale of railway arches

On 11 September 2018, Network Rail announced they had agreed terms for the sale of their Commercial Estate business in England and Wales. On 4 February 2019, the National Audit Office confirmed that Network Rail had completed a £1.46 billion sale of its commercial property portfolio consisting of approximately 5,200 properties across England and Wales, mainly railway arches.

Public sector net debt (PSND) at the end of February 2019 and the central government net cash requirement in February 2019 were each reduced by an amount equivalent to the cash received by central government from the sale.

We are currently investigating the nature of the transaction to ensure that the impacts will be fully reflected in the public sector finances, so it has yet to be determined whether public sector net borrowing (PSNB) is affected and therefore it remains unchanged.

McCloud pension case

In 2015, the government introduced changes to most public sector pension schemes. As part of the transitional arrangements, older members of the pension schemes had an opportunity to stay in their original pension schemes, which offered better terms than the new schemes introduced at the time. Younger members had to transfer to the new schemes. In December 2018, the Court of Appeal ruled that these arrangements amounted to unlawful age discrimination in a decision that was later upheld by the Supreme Court. 

Although the court ruling was related to judges' and firefighters' pension schemes, on 15 July 2019 the government confirmed that the difference in treatment will need to be remedied across all relevant public sector pension schemes.

The impact of this decision on the public sector finances is not yet known, but it has the potential to change the size of the pension liability as well as the net borrowing position of the public sector pension sub-sector. We will provide further information on the impacts of this ruling when it becomes available.

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Contact details for this Statistical bulletin

Fraser Munro
public.sector.inquiries@ons.gov.uk
Telephone: +44 (0)1633 456402