It is a lot of money, but what does £694.89bn really buy you in 2012?
Guardian Data’s annual audit of UK government spending this year shows huge cuts taking place across supposedly protected areas of government as the austerity programme hits home.
Public spending in 2011-12 was £694.89bn – compared to £689.63bn in 2010-11. That may look like an increase but once inflation is taken into account, it is a real-terms cut of 1.58%, or £10.8bn.
However, that £10.8bn cut masks big drops in spending in over 40 government departments and quangos, including ‘protected’ areas such as health and education. We have identified 45 departments or non-departmental public bodies with cuts in spending – those groups have suffered £72bn cuts in real terms in a single year, equivalent to around 10% of annual spending.
Thanks to Guardian graphic artist Jenny Ridley, we can see how that spending fits together – and how anything less than a billion is really not that much in government terms – particularly compared to a budget deficit of £121.4bn for 2011-12.
Explore the graphic
The data – for the financial year 2011-12 – is the first time this year’s information has been collected in a single place. The official Treasury report, PESA, publishes some of this data but not at the same level of detail.
Each year every government department publishes an annual report which includes detailed breakdowns of spending. These are what we have gone through to get the key numbers for you. [If you want to do it yourself, there’s a little guide to how to find it at the bottom of this article.]
• Education: down by 5.7% in real terms. The government had pledged to protect the education budget from the cuts and had added the pupil premium to help poorer children. However, the annual reports clearly show DFE spending going from £58.28bn to £56.27bn – a cut even before inflation is taken into account. Within the education budget, there have been big cuts to schools infrastructure (-81%, largely as a result of the scrapping Building Schools for Future programme) and Children, Young People and Families (-17%, with big cuts to Sure Start). The schools budget – excluding academies – is down by 4.31% to £46.2bn, while academies have had a 191% increase to £5.3bn as more schools convert. The pupil premium, at £556m is only equivalent to 1% of the overall education budget. It’s also worth noting education secretary Michael Gove’s hard-hitting civil servant cuts.
• Business, Innovation and Skills – cut by 7.9% with big drops across universities, FE colleges and science. In particular it shows higher education cut by 7%, further education by 18% and science & research slashed by 6%
• The Department of Health – another protected area – has not kept up with inflation, with a -1.2% change in its budget after inflation. It sees spending on the NHS down by 1.23% in real terms with cuts of 1.17% in primary care and 1% in dental services. However, there have been rises in hospital spending, A&E and community health care. The PESA NHS (Health) numbers suggest that total NHS DEL increased by 0.02% in real terms in 2011-12, although this comprises a 0.5% increase in Resource DEL and an 11.2% cut in capital DEL. This probably suggests that there is some NHS money that is not being channeled through the Department of Health? Or is it because DEL is only part of overall spending
• Ministry of Justice – down nearly 11% with big real term cuts to spending on courts (-23%), prisons (-15.61%), Criminal Injuries Compensation (-46%) and the Youth Justice Board (-18.92%). Civil legal aid, however, is still increasing despite reforms – up by 1.5%
• Home Office – down 5.4%, including cuts to the UK Border Agency (since reformed into a new Border Force) of 21.65% and Police (-6.64%)
• Communities & Local Government – down by 15%, including swingeing cuts to spending in neighbourhoods and localism. Local government spending has just kept pace with inflation
• Foreign & Commonwealth Office – cut by 4.92%, including cuts to the BBC World Service of 6%, the British Council of 6.98% and peacekeeping down by 3.76%
Several non-departmental bodies have also seen big cuts in their budgets:
• The Serious Fraud Office -19%
• Ofcomm -15%
• Equality & Human Rights Commission, -14%
• Health Protection Agency, -11%
• Ofsted, -11%
• Charity Commission, -10%
• Sport England (despite the Olympics) -9.63%
• English Heritage, -9%
• Crown Prosecution Service -6%
• Benefit spending: the Department for Work & Pensions, Britain’s biggest department, spent £166.98bn in 2011-12 – an inflation increase of nearly 2% on the year before. Benefit spending was up by 1.11% including a 5% rise in housing benefit spending to £16.94bn, state pensions going up by 3.73% to £74bn and a rise of 7.58% in spending on jobseekers’ allowance. Meanwhile there have been cuts in incapacity benefit of 13%. The emergency Social Fund, which is for people who cannot get help elsewhere, saw cuts of 39%. One reason Incapacity Benefit spending has decreased is because new claimants now receive Employment and Support Allowance instead.
• The public sector debt: interest payments on the government’s debt stood at £48.2bn, a rise of 8.73% including inflation
• Aid to the developing world: the Department for International Development saw its spending go up by 8.42% with increased spending on Africa, the UN and Commonwealth
• Public sector pensions – spending up from £5.6bn to £8.4bn, an increase of 46.5%
• Parliament: spending in both houses increased. The Commons said this is a knock-on effect of the 2010 election, with the absence of MPs during the campaign reducing costs substantially
• The Olympic Delivery Authority and the Electoral Commission with elections and Olympics spending hitting the annual report periods
• UK Statistics Authority – up by 4.69%. The UK government has a lot to measure nowadays, and its budget has been bolstered by £2m a year for David Cameron’s happiness index
The data is based on annual reports published by government departments. Laid before Parliament in July each year, they are the definitive guide to how much each department or quango has spent in each financial year. And, while the government has been publishing more and more data in more and more granular detail, getting these definitive big numbers has got harder. Earlier this year, cabinet secretary Francis Maude issued a warning earlier this year to departments that they were in breach of the ministerial code by publishing this key data as inaccessible PDFs.
This is the comprehensive atlas of public spending available, put together by us with the help of the Institute of Fiscal Studies.
Some of the rise in benefits spending is simply accounted for by the fact that benefits are increased each year in line with CPI/average earnings, so even if there were no increase in claimants the amount spent would go up.
The full data is below. What can you do with it?
The first thing to do is to find each department’s annual resource accounts, which come out in July each year. They give you the figures you want, just not in the format you need. Government departmental spending is split into four parts:
• Departmental Expenditure limits (DEL) – capital
• Departmental Expenditure limits (DEL) – resource
• Annually Managed Expenditure (AME) – capital
• Annually Managed Expenditure (AME) – resource
Add those four together and you get the department’s total spending – in most of the resource accounts, this is table 1 of the core tables, always labelled Total Departmental Spending. Most of them now sum up the department’s totals but not the totals for individual projects. So, you need to add together those four numbers, the resource and capital DEL and AME figures for each project.
We should point out that the new departmental resource accounts – designed to be read by accountants, as opposed to the general public, have made this process harder. See my name and shame guide to the worst government departmental reports here.
When you get the two figures, you may want to work out the %-change including inflation – which makes small increases effectively a cut in spending. Thanks to the IFS’ Gemma Tetlow, here’s how to do it:
Inflation-adjusted changes are calculated by deflating the cash spending figures by the change in the GDP deflator, which is available from HM Treasury. Inflation between 2010-11 and 2010-11 was 2.38%. So:
Total spending figures (Total Managed Expenditure, in nominal terms) were as follows:
2010-11 = £689.634bn
2011-12 = £694.888bn
Real change in total spending was -1.58%, calculated as:
2011-12 spending, in 2010-11 prices = 694.888/(1+2.38/100) = £678.734bn
[where 2.38% is economy-wide inflation between 2010-11 and 2011-12]
% real growth in total spending = 100*(678.734/689.634-1) = -1.58%