The good news is we're still worth £7trn (at least for now)

Iceland...Hungary...Ukraine... At a time when almost every day brings news of another sovereign state going bust, it is comforting to know the UK is at least solvent – and to the tune of £7 trillion. Even though recession seems inevitable, and government borrowing is soaring while house prices seem destined to fall forever, the UK is still worth a surprising amount.

The net wealth of British households, companies and official bodies, even taking into account the mountains of debt, has touched £7trn – that's £7,000bn, or £7 million million.

According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), in 2007 the UK's net assets rose to a record £506bn, or about 8 per cent above their 2006 level. British households were thus valued at a total of £7.5trn, even taking account of their mortgages and other debts, which run to about £1.7trn. On this reckoning every UK household is worth £300,000, and each man, woman and child £125,000, on average.

Or they were. The falls in the stock markets and the slump in house prices will have wiped roughly £1trn off that total – the first fall in national wealth since 1992. Even so, the UK's wealth will still have doubled in size in a decade, a growth rate that reflects the rapid rise in house prices as well as mostly healthy economic growth over the period.

By far the biggest asset owned by the nation is the housing stock. This makes up about 60 per cent of the total, up from about 50 per cent of national net worth at the beginning of this decade. Stocks, shares, bank accounts and pension plans are in fact a much bigger gross asset, at almost £26trn, but are more than outweighed by the national burden of debt – public and private – to leave a net negative contribution of £381.6bn on the national balance sheet. Offices and factories and the national fleet of cars, lorries, aircraft and ships make up most of the rest of the national wealth.

In terms of who owns what, again the British householder takes pride of place. Modern Britons, with their notorious appetite for debt, are still worth more than they owe – with a net worth of £4.1trn, even after £1.5trn in mortgages and debts have been accounted for. Public corporations and local government are also in the black, but central government is not.

It is not quite clear what value has been assigned to 10 Downing Street, Buckingham Palace and other national treasures but, according to the ONS, central government still has liabilities exceeding its assets to the order of £202bn. Nor is any particular worth attached to pieces of national "human capital" such as the leadership of Gordon Brown, the judgement of George Osborne or the "talent" of Russell Brand and Jonathan Ross. Private companies and, perhaps unsurprisingly, the banks are also in the red.

With the fall in national wealth brought by a recession, we are likely soon to feel poorer, and to be poorer as well. But there is still a very large cushion before this country finds itself with liabilities exceeding its assets.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Recruitment Genius: Software Development Manager

£40000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Ashdown Group: Product Manager - (Product Marketing, Financial Services)

£30000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager - Marke...

Recruitment Genius: Compliance Assistant

£13000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Pension Specialist was established ...

Ashdown Group: Market Research Executive

£23000 - £26000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Market Research Executive...

Day In a Page

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

Homeless Veterans appeal

The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

How books can defeat Isis

Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

Young carers to make dance debut

What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

Design Council's 70th anniversary

Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
Dame Harriet Walter: The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment

Dame Harriet Walter interview

The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment
Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

Bill Granger's winter salads

Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links