Public sector finances, UK: June 2021

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

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Cyswllt:
Email Fraser Munro

Dyddiad y datganiad:
21 July 2021

Cyhoeddiad nesaf:
20 August 2021

2. Main points

  • Public sector net borrowing (excluding public sector banks, PSNB ex) was estimated to have been £22.8 billion in June 2021; this was the second-highest June borrowing since monthly records began in 1993, £5.5 billion less than in June 2020.

  • Central government receipts in June 2021 were estimated to have been £62.2 billion, £9.5 billion more than in June 2020, while central government bodies spent £84.1 billion, £2.5 billion more than in June 2020.

  • Public sector net borrowing (PSNB ex) was estimated to have been £69.5 billion in the financial year-to-June 2021; this was the second-highest financial year-to-June borrowing since monthly records began in 1993, £49.8 billion less than in the same period last year.

  • Public sector net borrowing (PSNB ex) in the financial year ending (FYE) March 2021 was estimated to have been £297.7 billion, revised down by £1.5 billion from last month’s provisional estimate but still the highest borrowing since financial year records began in FYE March 1946.

  • Expressed as a ratio of gross domestic product (GDP), public sector net borrowing (PSNB ex) in FYE March 2021 was 14.2%, revised down by 0.1 percentage points from last month’s provisional estimate but still the highest such ratio since the end of World War Two, when it was 15.2% in FYE March 1946.

  • Public sector net debt (excluding public sector banks, PSND ex) was £2,218.2 billion at the end of June 2021 or around 99.7% of GDP, the highest ratio since the 102.5% recorded in March 1961.

  • Central government net cash requirement (excluding UK Asset Resolution Ltd and Network Rail) was £19.2 billion in June 2021, £28.0 billion less than in June 2020, bringing the total for the financial year-to-June 2021 to £73.6 billion.

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3. The impact of coronavirus on the public finances

The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has had a substantial impact on the economy and subsequently on public sector borrowing and debt.

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Although the impact of the pandemic on the public finances is becoming clearer, its effects are not fully captured in this release meaning that estimates of accrued tax receipts and borrowing are subject to greater uncertainty than usual.

Central government tax and National Insurance receipts combined in the financial year ending (FYE) March 2021 (April 2020 to March 2021) were £672.4 billion, a fall of £30.6 billion compared with the same period a year earlier. Government support for individuals and businesses during the pandemic contributed to an increase of £204.3 billion in central government day-to-day (or current) spending to £942.7 billion.

As a result of these low receipts and high expenditure, provisional estimates indicate that in FYE March 2021, the public sector borrowed £297.7 billion, equivalent to 14.2% of the UK’s gross domestic product (GDP). This was £29.7 billion less than the £327.4 billion expected by the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) in their Economic and Fiscal outlook – March 2021 on a like-for-like basis.

In total, at least 50 schemes have been announced by the UK government and the devolved administrations to support individuals and businesses during the pandemic. Our article Recent and upcoming changes to public sector finance statistics: June 2021 discusses the largest of the coronavirus schemes by implementation status within the public sector finances.

The extra funding required by government coronavirus support schemes, combined with reduced cash receipts and a fall in GDP, have all helped push public sector net debt as a ratio of GDP to levels last seen in the early 1960s. Public sector net debt (excluding public sector banks, PSND ex) at the end of June 2021 was equivalent to 99.7% of GDP.

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Our estimates expressed as a percentage of GDP are partially based on official projections, which means figures for recent periods are subject to revision, particularly considering the uncertain impacts of the coronavirus pandemic on the economy.

More about economy, business and jobs

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4. Borrowing in June 2021

The public sector spent more than it received in taxes and other income in June 2021, requiring it to borrow £22.8 billion, the second-highest June borrowing on record.

Analysis of the components of borrowing in June 2021

Central government is the largest sub-sector of the public sector and therefore changes in central government receipts and expenditure usually have the most influence on public sector net borrowing. Public sector finances tables 1 to 10: Appendix A provide further information.

Central government receipts

Central government receipts in June 2021 were estimated to have been £62.2 billion, a £9.5 billion (or 18.0%) increase compared with June 2020. Of these receipts, tax revenues increased by £8.1 billion (or 21.7%) to £45.5 billion.

In the most recent months, tax receipts recorded on an accrued (or national accounts) basis are always subject to some uncertainty, as many taxes such as Value Added Tax (VAT), Corporation Tax and Pay As You Earn (PAYE) Income Tax contain some forecast cash receipts data and are liable to revision when actual cash receipts data are received.

The period of uncertainty is longer for taxes with coronavirus deferral schemes, such as VAT, and data for these taxes will be provisional for longer than usual.

The data used to inform receipts on a national accounts basis are largely consistent with the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) Economic and fiscal outlook – March 2021 published on 3 March 2021. Where necessary, and if there is sufficient information, further adjustments are made to estimate the impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Further details of the methods used to estimate the effect of the coronavirus on receipts were provided in Section 12 of Public sector finances, UK: March 2021. There have been no new methodology adjustments this month.

From April 2021, Corporation Tax estimates have been affected to some extent by the introduction of the super-deduction capital allowance, providing tax incentives for those companies investing in qualifying new plant and machinery assets.  

Central government expenditure

Central government bodies spent £84.1 billion in June 2021, £2.5 billion (or 3.1%) more than in June 2020.

Interest payments on debt by central government

Interest payments on central government debt were £8.7 billion in June 2021, the highest monthly payment on record (records began in April 1997).

Fluctuations in debt interest are largely a result of movements in the Retail Prices Index (RPI) to which index-linked gilts are pegged.

The interest related to the £470.7 billion index-linked gilts in circulation (at redemption value) increased by £6.0 billion in June 2021 compared to June 2020, mainly as a result of the large increase in the RPI between March and April 2021 impacting on the uplift of the three-month lagged index-linked gilts.

This additional accrued expenditure will not be wholly reflected in the central government net cash requirement in the near term, as this movement reflects an increase in the government’s liabilities, which will be realised as the existing stock of index-linked gilts redeem.

Central government expenditure on procurement and pay

Central government departments spent £31.1 billion on goods and services in June 2021, an increase of £1.7 billion (or 5.7%) including £17.7 billion on procurement and £12.8 billion in pay. This cost includes the expenditure by the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC), devolved administrations and other departments in response to the coronavirus pandemic including the NHS Test and Trace programme and the cost of vaccines.

Transfers to local government

Central government current transfers to local government were £10.5 billion in June 2021, an increase of £0.7 billion (or 7.5%) compared with June 2020. In part, these payments enable local authorities to fund coronavirus policies.

Current and capital transfers between central government and local government are based on administrative data supplied by HM Treasury and have no impact at the public sector level.

Payments to the European Union

Though the UK’s regular monthly VAT and gross national income-based contributions to the European Union (EU) budget stopped with effect from January 2021, we are still obliged to make further payments to the EU such as those outlined in the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Act 2020.

This month the UK paid £0.8 billion to the EU as a part of the Financial Settlement under the Withdrawal Agreement.

The financial settlement represents a negotiated settlement of the UK’s financial commitments to the EU and the EU’s financial commitments to the UK, which result from the UK’s participation in the EU budget, and other commitments relating to our EU membership.

This payment, along with any future similar payments such as those outlined in the Withdrawal Agreement has been recorded as central government expenditure, more specifically as a current transfer paid abroad. As the time of payments is stipulated within the call for payment, this and future payments will be recorded as a component of borrowing when cash payments are made rather than at the point the call for payment is received from the EU.

The UK will make three further cash payments of roughly the same size between July and September 2021, to meet the first call for payment, received in April 2021.

The UK will receive further calls for payment from the EU to meet our existing obligations, with the next one expected in September 2021.

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5. Borrowing in the financial year-to-June 2021

The public sector borrowed £69.5 billion in the financial year-to-June 2021, £49.8 billion (or 41.7%) less than in the same period a year earlier.

Official forecasts suggest that borrowing may reach £233.9 billion by the end of the financial year ending (FYE) March 2022, which will be £63.8 billion (or 21.4%) less than in the FYE March 2021.

Borrowing had generally been falling since its peak of £157.7 billion during the economic downturn in FYE March 2010. However, largely as a result of the impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the £297.7 billion borrowed in FYE March 2021 was nearly double this previous record.

Analysis of the components of borrowing in financial year-to-June 2021

Central government is the largest sub-sector of the public sector and therefore changes in central government receipts and expenditure usually have the most influence on public sector net borrowing. Public sector finances tables 1 to 10: Appendix A provide further information.

Central government receipts

Central government receipts in the financial year-to-June 2021 were estimated to have been £181.1 billion, a £24.8 billion (or 15.9%) increase compared with the same period in 2020. Of these receipts, tax revenues increased by £24.1 billion (or 22.3%) to £132.5 billion.

Central government expenditure

Central government day-to-day (or current) spending was estimated to have fallen by £24.1 billion (or 9.2%) to £237.5 billion, in financial year-to-June 2021 compared with the same period a year earlier.

Transfers to local government

Central government current transfers to local government were £40.7 billion in the financial year-to-June 2021, £8.1 billion (or 16.6%) less than in the same period a year earlier.

Some coronavirus-related current grants that have been paid by central to local government have either not been spent, or have not yet been fully reflected in our estimates of local government spending.

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6. Central government net cash requirement

The central government net cash requirement (CGNCR), excluding UK Asset Resolution Ltd and Network Rail, is the amount of cash needed immediately for the UK government to meet its obligations. To obtain cash, the UK government sells financial instruments, gilts or Treasury Bills.

The amount of cash required will be affected by changes in the timing of tax payments by individuals and businesses but does not depend on forecast tax receipts in the same way as our accrued (or national accounts) based measures.

The CGNCR consequently contains the most timely information and is less susceptible to revision than other statistics in this release. However, as for any cash measure, the CGNCR does not reflect the overall amount for which the government is liable or the point at which any liability is incurred – it only reflects when cash is received and spent.

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7. Debt

Public sector net debt represents the amount of money the public sector owes to private sector organisations (including overseas institutions). When the government borrows, this normally adds to the debt total, but it is important to remember that reducing borrowing (the deficit) is not the same as reducing the debt.

Public sector net debt (excluding public sector banks, PSND ex) stood at £2,218.2 billion at the end of June 2021, an increase of £245.5 billion compared with the same point last year.

Over the course of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the increase in debt combined with a fall in gross domestic product (GDP) have all helped push public sector net debt as a ratio of GDP to levels last seen in the early 1960s, with debt as a ratio of GDP currently standing at 99.7% at the end of June 2021.

Central government gilts

Debt represents the amount of money owed by the public sector to the private sector and is largely made up of gilts (or bonds) issued to investors by central government.

There were £1,924.0 billion of central government gilts in circulation at the end of June 2021 (including those held by the Bank of England (BoE) Asset Purchase Facility Fund), comprising of £1,453.3 billion in conventional gilts and £470.7 billion in index-linked gilts (at redemption value).

These gilts are auctioned by the Debt Management Office (DMO), on behalf of central government in accordance with its financing remit.

The Bank of England’s contribution to debt

The Bank of England’s (BoE) contribution to debt is largely a result of its quantitative easing activities through the BoE Asset Purchase Facility (APF) Fund and Term Funding Schemes (TFS).

If we were to remove the temporary debt impact of these schemes along with the other transactions relating to the normal operations of the BoE, public sector net debt excluding public sector banks (PSND ex) at the end of June 2021 would reduce by £226.1 billion (or 10.2 percentage points of GDP) to £1,992.1 billion (or 89.5% of GDP).

The estimated impact of the APF’s gilt holdings on debt currently stands at £111.0 billion, representing the difference between the value of the reserves created to purchase gilts (or market value of the gilts) and the £696.8 billion face (or redemption) value of the gilts purchased.

The total corporate bond holdings of the APF at the end of June 2021 stood at £19.8 billion, adding an equivalent amount to the level of debt.

The TFS loan liability stood at £24.1 billion and the Term Funding Scheme for small and medium-sized enterprises (TFSME) loan liability stood at £89.1 billion at the end of June 2021, making a combined liability of £113.2 billion, adding an equivalent amount to the level of debt.

Assets purchased under the TFS and TFSME fall outside the boundary of public sector net debt excluding public sector banks (PSND ex). Those users who are interested in wider measures of the public sector balance sheet may find estimates of public sector net financial liabilities (PSNFL) of interest.

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8. Revisions

The data for the latest months of every release contain a degree of forecasts; subsequently, these are replaced by improved forecasts as further data are made available and finally by outturn data.

The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has had a substantial impact on both tax receipts and expenditure. These impacts are likely to be revised further as the full effects of the coronavirus pandemic on the public finances continue to become clearer.

Revisions to net borrowing in the financial year-to-May 2021

Since our last publication (22 June 2021), we have reduced our estimate of borrowing in the financial year-to-May 2021 by £6.7 billion, with estimates of borrowing in May and April reducing by £3.7 billion and £2.9 billion respectively.

Central government borrowing reduced by £5.7 billion largely because of a £4.0 billion increase in our previous estimate of tax and National Insurance receipts, combined with a reduction in our previous estimates of both current and capital expenditure of £0.6 billion and £1.0 billion respectively.

Local government borrowing reduced by £1.0 billion, because of an increased estimate of grants received from central government. While these additional grants reduced local government borrowing, the additional central government expenditure increased central government borrowing by an equal and offsetting amount, having no overall impact on public sector borrowing.

The revisions to the components of central and local government borrowing are summarised in Public sector finances tables 1 to 10: Appendix A.

Revisions to borrowing in the financial year ending (FYE) March 2021

Since our last publication (22 June 2021), we have reduced our estimate of borrowing in FYE March 2021 by £1.5 billion, largely because of increased accrued Value Added Tax (VAT) and Corporation Tax estimates, resulting from higher than forecast June 2021 cash receipts. Estimates of VAT and Corporation Tax on an accrued (or national accounts) basis for FYE March 2021 are still provisional.

Revisions to public sector net debt

This month we have reduced our previous estimate of the level of debt at the end of May 2021 by £0.3 billion from that published on 22 June 2021. This change is largely the result of an increase in liquid assets held by central government.

The revisions to our debt aggregates are presented in Public sector finances tables 1 to 10: Appendix A.

Revisions to public sector net debt as a ratio of GDP

This month we updated our estimates of gross domestic product (GDP) used as the denominator in our net debt to GDP ratio to reflect the latest data published estimates (30 June 2021). As a result, our ratio of debt to GDP has reduced by 0.1 percentage points at the end of each month for the period August 2020 to May 2021.

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9. Public sector finances data

Public sector finances borrowing by sub-sector
Dataset | Released 21 July 2021
An extended breakdown of public sector borrowing in a matrix format and estimates of total managed expenditure (TME).

Public sector finances tables 1 to 10: Appendix A
Dataset | Released 21 July 2021
The data underlying the public sector finances statistical bulletin are presented in the tables PSA 1 to 10.

Public sector finances revisions analysis on main fiscal aggregates: Appendix C
Dataset | Released 21 July 2021
Revisions analysis for central government receipts, expenditure, net borrowing and net cash requirement statistics for the UK over the last five years.

Public sector current receipts: Appendix D
Dataset | Released 21 July 2021
A breakdown of UK public sector income by latest month, financial year-to-date and full financial year, with comparisons with the same period in the previous financial year.

International Monetary Fund’s Government Finance Statistics framework in the public sector finances: Appendix E
Dataset | Released 21 July 2021
Presents the balance sheet, statement of operations and statement of other economic flows for public sector compliant with the Government Finance Statistics Manual 2014: GFSM 2014 presentation.

HMRC tax receipts and National Insurance contributions for the UK
Dataset | Released 21 July 2021
Summary of HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) tax receipts, National Insurance contributions (NICs), tax credit expenditure and Child Benefit for the UK on a cash basis.

View all datasets related to this publication.

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10. Glossary

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 (BoE) and public financial corporations (or public sector banks).

Public sector current expenditure

Current expenditure measures reflect the cost of the public sector’s day-to-day activities. For example, in the case of central government these include:

  • providing services and grants (for example, related to education, defence, and health and social care) – including the current job furlough schemes
  • payment of social benefits (such as pensions, unemployment payments, Child Benefit and Statutory Maternity Pay)
  • payment of the interest on the government’s outstanding debt

Public sector debt interest to revenue ratio

The debt interest to revenue ratio (DIR) represents the proportion of net interest paid (gross interest paid less interest received) by the public sector (excluding public sector banks), compared with the non-interest receipts it receives in a given period.

Public sector current budget deficit

Public sector current budget is the difference between revenue (mainly from taxes) and current expenditure, on an accrued (or national accounts) basis; it is the gap between current expenditure and current receipts (having taken account of depreciation). The current budget is in surplus when receipts are greater than expenditure.

Public sector net investment

Public sector net investment is the sum of all capital spending, mainly net acquisitions of capital assets and capital grants, less the depreciation of the stock of capital assets.

Public sector net borrowing

Public sector net borrowing excluding public sector banks (PSNB ex) measures the gap between revenue raised (current receipts) and total spending (current expenditure plus net investment (capital spending less capital receipts)). PSNB is often referred to by commentators as “the deficit”.

Public sector net cash requirement

The public sector net cash requirement (PSNCR) represents the cash needed to be raised from the financial markets over a period of time to finance the government’s activities. This can be close to borrowing (the deficit) for the same period; however, there are some transactions, for example, loans to the private sector, that need to be financed but do not contribute to the deficit. It is also close but not identical to the changes in the level of net debt between two points in time.

Public sector net debt

Public sector net debt excluding public sector banks (PSND ex) represents the amount of money the public sector owes to private sector organisations including overseas institutions, largely as a result of issuing gilts and Treasury Bills, minus the amount of cash and other short-term assets it holds. PSND is often referred to by commentators as “the national debt”.

Public sector banks

Unless otherwise stated, the figures quoted in this bulletin exclude public sector banks, currently only the NatWest Group (formerly the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) Group).

The reported position of debt, and to a lesser extent borrowing, would be distorted by the inclusion of NatWest Group’s balance sheet (and transactions). This is because the government does not need to borrow to fund the debt of NatWest Group, nor would surpluses achieved by NatWest Group be passed on to the government, other than through any dividends paid as a result of the government equity holdings.

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

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11. Measuring the data

Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government statistics review

Local government data in this release use source data collected by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG). As part of a comprehensive review, MHCLG has launched a survey to help identify users of MHCLG local government finance statistics, assess how well those statistics meet their needs, and seek views on how the MHCLG local government finance statistics could be improved.

The closing date is 13 August 2021.

Methodological guidance

The Monthly statistics on the public sector finances: a methodological guide provides comprehensive contextual and methodological information concerning the monthly public sector finances statistical bulletin. The guide sets out the conceptual and fiscal policy context for the bulletin, identifies the main fiscal measures, and explains how these are derived and interrelated.

More quality and methodology information on strengths, limitations, appropriate uses, and how the data were created is available in the Public sector finances QMI.

Provisional borrowing estimates

The figures for the latest month of every release contain some forecast data. The initial outturn estimates for the early months of the financial year, particularly April and May, contain more forecast data than other months, as profiles of tax receipts, along with departmental and local government spending are still provisional. Therefore the data for these months are typically more prone to revision than other months and can be subject to sizeable revisions in later months.

This situation may be more pronounced in the financial year ending (FYE) March 2022 than previous years for central government spending. A new HM Treasury (HMT) administration system, used to collect the data, was introduced from June 2021 and used for the first time in the July release. As with all system changes there is a possibility that the outputs will be less stable in the initial stages. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) is working with HMT to minimise the impact of the system change on these statistics.

Comparisons with official forecasts

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

Subsidies paid by central government

In order to support individuals and the economy during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic the government introduced two job furlough schemes, the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) and the Self Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS).

While CJRS payments on an accrued basis for the period March 2020 to May 2021 are based on HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) estimates, the June 2021 payment is based on the OBR’s latest estimates.

SEISS payments are currently recorded on a cash basis, consistent with HMRC coronavirus statistics.  

Estimating monthly gross domestic product (GDP)

Estimates of GDP used to present debt and other headline measures are partly based on provisional and official forecast data. Our June 2021 estimate of monthly GDP requires data across four quarters of GDP. Of these, one is based on the latest data published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) (30 June 2021) and three are based on the latest official forecasts published by OBR (3 March 2021).

Local government and public corporations

Both local government and public corporations’ data in the most recent periods are initial estimates, largely based on the Budget Responsibility (OBR) Economic and fiscal outlook (EFO) – March 2021, with adjustments being applied as needed.

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, usually to reduce the amounts reported at the budget stage.

For FYE 2020, we include a £0.2 billion downward adjustment to Wales’ capital expenditure.

For FYE 2021 we include:

  • a £0.7 billion downward adjustment to Scotland’s capital expenditure
  • a £0.2 billion downward adjustment to Wales’ capital expenditure
  • an £8.5 billion upward adjustment to England’s current expenditure on goods and services, as the budget forecasts on which these are based were prepared before the coronavirus pandemic

We apply a further £1.0 billion downward adjustment to budget forecast current expenditure on benefits in FYE 2021, to reflect the most recently available data for housing benefits.

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Manylion cyswllt ar gyfer y Bwletin ystadegol

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