It is often stated that it is wrong to compare national spending to balancing a household budget, but fundamentally, it should be the same thing. A family unable to balance its costs of living gets drawn ever deeper into debt with the uncertainty and potential for (personal) disaster that that brings. On the national level, an inability to generate a balance of payment surplus leads to an ever increasing public debt mountain which incurs interest. Whilst at approximately £1.9 trillion, the debt is not going to be cleared for generations; the current interest on it costs the nation about £50 billion per year. The costs of funding the debt come out of the UK’s “household budget” and mean that less money is available for spending on defence, infrastructure, health care, education and social security. For comparison, the GDP of the UK is roughly £2 trillion.
The UK Treasury will point to the fact that the UK has recorded its first monthly trade surplus in 15 years with some pride. The UK’s borrowing for July was less than expenditure by £200 million; this compares to a deficit of £0.3 billion for July 2016. In 2002, by way of comparison, the UK public debt stood at “just” £310 billion or so.
The better figures for the exchequer (in July at least) were due to a hike in taxes received from people using self-assessment which is paid in January and July. The UK national debt equates to £65000 per household. Current account borrowing (i.e. the deficit) is running 9% higher than last year when it came in at £20.9 billion and it is expected to continue to rise this year with the OBR projection for the financial year coming in with a £58.3 billion shortfall.