Box sets » Public spending » Debt interest spending
The average maturity of UK government bonds is longer than the average maturity of government debt in most other advanced economies. But the average maturity of the net debt of the public sector as a whole (including the Bank of England) has shortened considerably since the global financial crisis. In this box, we explored how the Bank of England's quantitative easing operations have shortened the maturity of public sector net debt, dramatically increasing the sensitivity of debt interest spending to changes in short-term interest rates.
Despite debt rising as a share of GDP to a new post-war peak in our November 2020 forecast, government spending on debt interest was expected to fall to a new historic low as a share of total government revenue. This box explored how this had left the public finances more sensitive to future changes in the cost of servicing this higher debt burden.
By issuing gilts linked to the Retail Prices Index (RPI) the Government exposes itself to inflation risks on interest payments. In this box, we looked at how changes to the formula for calculating RPI would affect our forecast.
In February 2017, just ahead of the Spring Budget and our March Economic and fiscal outlook, the Ministry of Justice announced that the ‘personal injury discount rate’ would be reduced from 2.5 to minus 0.75 per cent (in inflation-adjusted real terms). This box explained the direct and indirect effects of this change on our receipts and public spending forecasts.
Since our March 2014 Economic and fiscal outlook, our debt interest spending forecast was revised down significantly as market expectations of the interest rates at which the Government can borrow and service its debt moved progressively lower and as inflation fell. This box explained some possible factors that could have caused market expectations of interest rates to rise and the effect on the fiscal position of a sudden increase in interest rates.
Our March 2015 Economic and fiscal outlook forecast highlighted large changes in our debt interest forecast since previous fiscal events and the added complexity that debt interest was expressed net of the effect of gilts held by the Bank of England Asset Purchase Facility (APF) associated with past quantitative easing. This box described how we produced the debt interest forecast and illustrated some of the sensitivities to which it was subject.
This box set out the impact of changes in interest rates on our public finances forecast, including debt interest spending and income tax receipts. Updated versions of our ready reckoners can be found on our website.