1 May 2020: The unsung heroes at the Debt Management Office (DMO) have swung into action as the UK Government has started to burn through cash at an astonishing rate, as illustrated by the #icaewchartoftheweek.
The DMO, the low-profile unit within HM Treasury responsible for the national debt, raised an astonishing £58bn from selling gilt-edged government securities in April, compared with an average of £11bn obtained each month in the financial year to March. The size and frequency of gilt auctions went from an average of £2.6bn from one auction a week in 2019-20 to £3.2bn from four auctions a week in April.
The scale of the challenge became apparent in March as the Government announced a series of eye-watering fiscal interventions, with the DMO going overdrawn by £18.5bn to keep the Government supplied with cash in advance of ramping up gilt auctions in April.
Fortunately, the DMO is able to finance the Government at ultra-low rates of interest at the moment, with auctions oversubscribed and yields on 10-year gilts at just over 0.3% during the course of April. If maintained, the incremental cost of the additional £384bn in public sector net debt in 2020-21 set out by the Office for Budget Responsibility in its coronavirus reference scenario would be less than £2bn a year.
A legacy of debt for future generations to deal with, but – at least for now – a relatively cheap burden to service.