24 July 2020: Liabilities of £4.6tn exceeded assets of £2.1tn at 31 March 2019 in the latest set of consolidated financial statements for the UK public sector.
The topic for the #icaewchartoftheweek is the Whole of Government Accounts (WGA) published on Tuesday. Despite taking 15½ months to prepare (way too long, even with the additional delays caused by the pandemic), this is still one the most important documents published by the Government each year.
The good news is that the UK is one of the leading countries in the world in providing fiscal transparency, with this being the tenth WGA, incorporating the financial results of over 9,000 public bodies for the 2018-19 financial year. While many countries are working to adopt accruals-accounting for their public finances, the UK is still the only major economy to publish a full set of accounts covering all levels of government in accordance with internationally recognised accounting standards.
The bad news is the financial position presented by those financial statements, highlighting the weaknesses in the public finances that existed even before the coronavirus pandemic. Total liabilities of £4.6tn at 31 March 2019 were substantially higher than the £1.8bn reported for the headline measure of debt in the National Accounts, prepared in accordance with statistical standards.
To find out more, ICAEW has put together a summary analysis of the Whole of Government Accounts 2018-19.
Alternatively, the full 200 pages of accounting and disclosure goodness that constitutes the WGA can be found here.