A step closer to admitting the true scale of our national debt

January 25, 2011 11:36 AM

For the first time the Office for National Statistics (ONS) has released figures on public sector net debt (PSND) that include the cost of bailing out RBS and Lloyds.  It adds an astonishing £1.3 trillion to the figure.  Just to put that into context, back when Northern Rock and Bradford and Bingley were brought into the public sector they added around £130 billion to PSND.

We’ve argued previously that these liabilities should not have been kept off the balance sheet.  We released a report into the real national debt and made this video,  highlighting the potential scale of the real national debt if liabilities like unfunded public sector pensions, unfunded state pensions, the Private Finance Initiative (PFI), Network Rail and nuclear decommissioning were included.  It seems the Government are finally ready to admit to the real numbers.  Or are they?

In a blog last October, Mike Denham said that the liabilities of Lloyds and RBS lay at around £2.6 trillion, the reason for the difference between Mike’s figure and the ONS marking it down as half that is due to the latter calculating the liability minus liquid assets.  It’s worth remembering why Mike picked the higher figure:
"The banks do have huge assets to set against their liabilities, as is fully acknowledged in our research paper.
But the problem is that nobody – including the banks themselves – knows what those assets are actually worth...And given the events of the last two years, we believe it's prudent to understand our potential total liability."


So, what about the rest of the things that we said should be included in the ONS figures?  They still aren’t counting unfunded public sector pensions (estimated at £1,283 billion) or unfunded state pensions (estimated at £2,717 billion).  And that’s not the end of the story.  Including the Local Government Pension deficit, PFI and nuclear decommissioning could add another £398 billion.  This article from the Daily Telegraph says PFI hospitals will "bring taxpayers 60 years of pain”.  This is real debt and it is being heaped on future generations.

Last year we wanted to highlight the scale of the national debt, so we mounted a ticking digital Debt Clock on the back of an articulated lorry and drove it 1,300 miles around the UK.  We used figures from the Budget 2010 (not our estimate of real national debt).  It’s lucky that we have space for another two digits on the end of our Debt Clock; it’s starting to look like we might need them.
TPA Debt ClockFor the first time the Office for National Statistics (ONS) has released figures on public sector net debt (PSND) that include the cost of bailing out RBS and Lloyds.  It adds an astonishing £1.3 trillion to the figure.  Just to put that into context, back when Northern Rock and Bradford and Bingley were brought into the public sector they added around £130 billion to PSND.

We’ve argued previously that these liabilities should not have been kept off the balance sheet.  We released a report into the real national debt and made this video,  highlighting the potential scale of the real national debt if liabilities like unfunded public sector pensions, unfunded state pensions, the Private Finance Initiative (PFI), Network Rail and nuclear decommissioning were included.  It seems the Government are finally ready to admit to the real numbers.  Or are they?

In a blog last October, Mike Denham said that the liabilities of Lloyds and RBS lay at around £2.6 trillion, the reason for the difference between Mike’s figure and the ONS marking it down as half that is due to the latter calculating the liability minus liquid assets.  It’s worth remembering why Mike picked the higher figure:
"The banks do have huge assets to set against their liabilities, as is fully acknowledged in our research paper.
But the problem is that nobody – including the banks themselves – knows what those assets are actually worth...And given the events of the last two years, we believe it's prudent to understand our potential total liability."


So, what about the rest of the things that we said should be included in the ONS figures?  They still aren’t counting unfunded public sector pensions (estimated at £1,283 billion) or unfunded state pensions (estimated at £2,717 billion).  And that’s not the end of the story.  Including the Local Government Pension deficit, PFI and nuclear decommissioning could add another £398 billion.  This article from the Daily Telegraph says PFI hospitals will "bring taxpayers 60 years of pain”.  This is real debt and it is being heaped on future generations.

Last year we wanted to highlight the scale of the national debt, so we mounted a ticking digital Debt Clock on the back of an articulated lorry and drove it 1,300 miles around the UK.  We used figures from the Budget 2010 (not our estimate of real national debt).  It’s lucky that we have space for another two digits on the end of our Debt Clock; it’s starting to look like we might need them.
TPA Debt Clock

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