For the fiscal year ending in March 2017:
The “current budget deficit*” is estimated to be £15.2 billion.
The difference between spending (including capital expenditure) and revenue is estimated to be £63 billion.
The increase in UK “net debt” is estimated to be £139.4 billion.
* Defined by Office of Budget Responsibility as (current expenditure - current receipts - depreciation).
This page shows the current trends in UK national deficit. Also see charts on UK debt history.
Chart D.01t: Recent UK Deficits
Chart D.02t: Recent UK Deficits as Percent GDP
In 2005 the UK “current budget deficit” was less that £20 billion. But then came the worldwide financial crisis of 2008 and subsequent recession. The budget deficit skyrocketed to £50 billion in 2009 and £103 billion in 2010. In the subsequent recovery the deficit has slowly declined, reaching £15 billion in 2017.
In terms of Gross Domestic Product the UK “current budget deficit” in 2005 was less than 2 percent of GDP, and declined to about 0.6 percent GDP in 2007 and 2008. In the Great Recession the deficit ballooned, to 6.9 percent of GDP in 2010. Since then the deficit has steadily declined, to less than one percent GDP in 2017.
UK Deficit Since World War II
Chart D.03t: UK Deficit Since 1947
The UK deficit started out in 1947 at 3 percent of GDP and then immediately went into surplus, as the Attlee government worked to reduce the huge debt racked up in World War II. The surplus peaked at 6.3 percent of GDP in 1950 and then declined to a surplus of 0.9 percent GDP in 1961.
But then surpluses started to climb again reaching 7.6 percent GDP in 1970 during the Wilson government before declining sharply. The UK scored a deficit of 0.1 percent GDP in 1975 for the first time in nearly 20 years.
The UK ran a budget deficit till the end of the Thatcher years, with a peak of 2.2 percent of GDP in 1981. In the mid to late 1980s deficits declined, and went into surplus in 1989 at 1.9 percent GDP.
Deficits returned in the Major years and the ERM crisis, reaching 5.7 percent GDP in 1994. But then the deficit came down and went into surplus, maxing out at a surplus of 2.3 percent GDP in 2001.
Moderate deficits were the rule in the mid 2000s Blair years. But the deficit rocketed upwards to 6.9 percent in 2010 in response to the Crash of 2008 and the Great Recession. In the recent recovery, the budget deficit has declined to less than one percent of GDP.
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Expenditure data since 1983 comes from HM Treasury’s Public Expenditure Statistical Analysis reports.
Detailed table of spending data sources here.
Gross Domestic Product data comes from measuringworth.com.
Central government spending data begins in 1692.
Local authority spending data begins in 1868.
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