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ICAEW: Public finances end financial year in a weak position

Author: ICAEW

Published: 23 Apr 2024

Alison Ring OBE FCA, ICAEW Director of Public Sector and Taxation, commented on the public sector finance release for March 2024 published by the Office for National Statistics today (Tuesday 23 April 2024):

“Now standing at approximately £92,000 per household, public sector net debt continues to represent a growing fiscal mortgage that the nation is required to service. Debt interest alone is a sizeable contributor to the deficit, at £3,600 per household or 9% of total spending in 2023/24. 

“Overall, today’s data shows that the net amount owed by government reached £2,694bn, which was close to the size of the entire UK economy at the end of March, hitting 98.3% of GDP. In addition, the deficit for the year was significantly higher than the government’s fiscal target of 3% of GDP, at a provisional £121bn or 4.4% of GDP. 

“As we approach a general election that is likely to focus on the state of the economy and the quality of public services, the weak state of the public finances at the start of the new financial year provides a shaky foundation for both main political parties as they finish writing their manifestos.”  


Notes to editors: 

CONTACT: ICAEW media office stephen.froome@icaew.com or 07970 402 073

  1. The provisional deficit of £121bn or 4.4% of GDP in 2023/24 comprised total receipts of £1,095bn or 39.8% of GDP less total managed expenditure of £1,216bn or 44.2% of GDP, with the latter including £104bn or 4.2% of GDP in debt interest. Public sector net debt on 31 March 2024 was provisionally reported to be £2,694bn or 98.3% of GDP. 
  2. These numbers are equivalent to a provisional deficit of approximately £4,200 per household in 2023/24, comprising total receipts of £37,700 per household less total managed expenditure of £41,900 per household, including £3,600 in debt interest. Public sector net debt on 31 March 2024 was equivalent to just over £92,000 per household. 
  3. Per household calculations are based on a projected population of 68.5m in the UK during 2023/24 and 68.9m on 31 March 2024 and an estimated average number of people per household of 2.36 to give an estimate of 29.0m households during 2023/24 and 29.2m households on 31 March 2024. 
  4. ICAEW has recently published an in-depth Fiscal Insight on the Spring Budget 2024. Further coverage of the Spring Budget 2024 can be found at icaew.com/budget