Whole of Government Accounts
The Whole of Government Accounts (WGA) are the consolidated financial statements for the whole of the UK public sector, showing what the UK Government spends and receives, and what it owns and owes. WGA can help Parliament hold the Treasury, as the government ministry with overall responsibility for public spending, to account. It gives Parliament and the public additional information, all in one place, on the Government’s overall financial position.
WGA aims to improve transparency, increase accountability, provide more complete data for the public sector, encourage comparable data, and provide complementary and complete information to support long-term fiscal analysis and decision making.
The Treasury is responsible for publishing the WGA. It published accounts for the 2014-15 financial year in May 2016.
Whole of Government Accounts 2014-15: At a glance
The WGA provides an accountant’s view of the Government’s financial position, which is different from the fiscal measures produced by the Office for National Statistics. The 2014-15 WGA shows net expenditure for the year of £152.0 billion and a net liability position of £2,103.2 billion.
Presented below is an interactive visualisation of the financial information contained within the Whole of Government accounts published over the last five years.
‘Ctrl’ (Apple ⌘) is used to select multiple elements of the visualisation.
If you click on a bubble, the information presented in the other two graphs will change. Hold ‘Ctrl'(Apple ⌘) to select multiple bubbles and compare.
If you hover over an element on a graph, it will highlight relevant information on the other graphs presented.
Clicking on a label element, such as year, will filter the presented information accordingly.
The first two dashboards are based on a dataset containing the financial statement information from the published WGAs of the last five years: 2014-15, 2013-14, 2012-13, 2011-12, 2010-11. This information is post-consolidation, i.e. presented after removing intra-government transactions. Where restatements have been made the following year, they have been adjusted in the dataset.
The second two dashboards are based on the submitted Data Collection Tools from WGA component bodies for 2014-15.
The dataset is made up of pre-consolidated information, i.e. before the removal of intra-government transactions. As such, these are the gross figures that make up the WGA. Bodies have to map their own accounts to the Standard Chart of Accounts; as such, the numbers presented in the visualisation may not reconcile to an individual body’s published accounts.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
How much was the deficit in 2014-15 and how does that compare to net expenditure in previous years?
The deficit (the difference between what the Government receives and what it spends) was £152.0 billion. In 2013-14 it was £145.7 billion. In 2012-13, the deficit was 178.7 billion; 2011-12 the deficit 185.3 billion; 2010-11 the deficit was £94.4 billion and in 2009-10 the deficit was £162.7 billion.
In 2010-11, there were two one-off events that reduced the deficit by £102 billion; if these events are ignored, like for like the deficit would have been £196.4 billion. The one off events were a £126 billion gain as a result of the government changing the measure of inflation used to set payments to members of the public sector pension schemes, and a £24 billion loss as a result of once in five year revaluation of council housing stock.
How much does the public sector own?
In 2014-15, the public sector (including local government) had assets of £1.455 trillion (i.e. £1,455,300,000,000).
How much does the Government owe? / What is the Government’s liability?
In 2013-14, the public sector liability was £3.558 trillion. Taking into account its assets of £1.455 trillion, the net liability was £2.103 trillion.
Does this include everything? What about PFI?
The WGA doesn’t include everything that accounting standards require, and this is a concern voiced by the Comptroller and Auditor General. The figures do not include bodies like further education colleges and some academy school buildings, which the Government has control of. It also doesn’t include the banks which are fully owned by the Treasury (such as RBS). The NAO thinks that for the 2014-15 WGA these bodies should be included.
All PFI projects, which are required under accounting standards to be recognised in the account, are included in the WGA.
So what would the figures look like if these bodies were included?
If the excluded bodies were included, this would have reduced the Government’s net liabilities by around £70.9 billion at the end of March 2015.
How many years will it take to pay off the Government’s debt?
The WGA is not designed to show the future path to sustainable debt position. Its primary purpose is to provide a detailed historical view of the government’s financial position.
The WGA, in accordance with accounting standards, does not include as an asset the Government’s ability to meet its payments through future taxation and borrowing. The impact of such an asset is modelled in the Office for Budget Responsibility’s long-term financial forecasts.
Currently the cost the Government pays on its gilts is low in comparison to other countries, and by historical standards. The public sector net liability that is reflected in the WGA contains long-term costs such as nuclear decommissioning and public sector pension schemes, which will have to be paid over many years to come, and are not reflected in the government’s preferred measure of debt (Public Sector Net Debt).
How is WGA different to adding up the financial statements of all the significant Government organisations?
WGA tries to only show the balances and transactions that the Government has had with non-UK-government organisations. It considers the Government to be a single entity, and as such the intra-government transactions and balances are eliminated. Note 2 of WGA provides an insight into the volume of eliminations that occur.
As a consequence, WGA is the one place where you can see the total value of the public sector pensions and the value of Quantitative Easing to Government after cancelling out the complex relationships between the Government bodies involved (Bank of England, its Asset Purchase Facility Fund, HM Treasury and the National Loans Fund).
How is WGA different to the other Government spending figures and the National Accounts?
Statistics on the Government’s financial position are routinely published in the National Accounts, monthly Public Sector Finances Report, the Public Expenditure Survey Analysis and other sources. The WGA is designed to complement existing statistical information on public finances by providing an account based on International Financial Reporting Standards that are used in the private sector but adapted for use in the public sector. These standards require including a wider range of assets and liabilities than the standards used to prepare the National Accounts.
The key differences are that the net liability includes pension liabilities, provisions for future spending that will be needed to meet current obligations, PFI liabilities which are not included in the National Accounts, and assets that are reported in the National Accounts but not included in the net debt figure.
Neither WGA nor the National Accounts include as an asset the Government’s future ability to raise taxes or the estimated value of assets or liabilities relating to future events.
Why do we need WGA when we already have the National Accounts?
WGA is prepared using International Financial Reporting Standards, which is designed to be more accessible.
The Office for Budget Responsibility considers the WGA is more complete that the National Accounts but the additional information included in the WGA is subject to greater uncertainty, such as the use of discount rates, which can vary annually, to value future liabilities.
Where is the state pension liability?
Despite the name, the state pension scheme is more like a social security benefit than a pension scheme. The WGA does not include a liability for the state pension scheme because, unlike public sector workers who have accrued their pension entitlement during the period of employment, citizens are only entitled to a payment under the state pension scheme if they meet certain criteria on the date that payment would be due. The WGA therefore recognises state pension payments as benefit expenditure when it is incurred. In 2014-15 the total state pension payment was £88.6 billion, the largest component of social security benefits (Note 6 to the WGA).
How does HM Treasury gather the information?
To collect consolidation information from designated bodies and prepare the consolidated accounts, Treasury uses an internet-based consolidation system.
Departments, NDPBs, pension schemes, devolved administrations, public corporations, trading funds and local government bodies fill in consolidation schedules and deliver the schedules to their sponsoring department. The schedules generate upload files from the information entered which are then loaded into the internet-based consolidation system.
How useful is WGA given that the Comptroller and Auditor General has qualified his opinion?
For stakeholders to gain greater confidence in using the WGA, it needs to be robust. A key measure of ‘robustness’ of a set of accounts is the opinion provided by the external auditor. Overall, the 2014-15 WGA was an accurate account of the Government’s financial position and performance but the audit opinion was qualified.
The qualifications are outlined in Part 2 of the C&AG’s Report on the 2014-15 WGA.
Reports and good practice
- Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General: Whole of Government Accounts 2014-15
- Whole of Government Accounts 2014-15
- Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General: Whole of Government Accounts 2013-14
- Whole of Government Accounts 2013-14
- Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General: Whole of Government Accounts 2011-12
- Whole of Government Accounts 2011-12
- Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General: Whole of Government Accounts 2010-11
- Whole of Government Accounts 2010-11 (PDF – 2.6 MB)
- Fact Sheet: Whole of Government Accounts 2010-11 (October 2012)
- Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General: Whole of Government Accounts 2009-10
- Whole of Government Accounts 2009-10 (PDF – 2.2 MB)
- Fact Sheet: Whole of Government Accounts (July 2012)