Follow us
Publications Commentary Research People Events News Resources and Videos About IFS
Home Tools and resources Fiscal Facts Public spending homepage Composition of public spending

Composition of public spending

Last updated:

Each year, the government publishes Public Expenditure Statistical Analyses, which describes the composition of public spending up to the latest out-turn year available. The composition of spending in 2014–15 is shown in Figure 1. The largest single areas of government spending are social security, health and education, which together account for around three-fifths of all public spending.

For data on the composition of spending in 2014–15 as a percentage of GDP, or in £ per family, click here

Figure 1. Composition of total public spending in 2014–15, £ billion (%) [Download the data]

Note: All £billion figures are in nominal terms. Data may not sum due to rounding.
Source: Social security spending is derived from Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), Benefit Expenditure and Caseload Tables and includes HMRC estimates of child benefit payments and tax credits. Gross debt interest payments are from ONS series JW2L and JW2P. Other spending figures are consistent with HM Treasury, Public Expenditure Statistical Analyses (PESA) 2015.

The composition of total public spending has changed over time, due to demographic trends, the economic cycle and the differing priorities of different governments. Figure 2 shows various components of total public spending as a share of national income over time. (For data on how the proportion of spending accounted for by different areas has changed over time, click here.) Spending on defence and debt interest payments has been declining relative to national income over the long run. In contrast, spending on social security and health has grown more quickly than both total spending and national income between 1978–79 and 2007–08, and so increased as a share of both.

Figure 2. Spending as a share of national income, by component of spend (%) [Download the data]

Source: Please click here for full source information.