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
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive / Foreign Exchange Dealer - OTE £40,000+

£16000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Foreign Exchange Dealer is re...

SThree: Experienced Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £40000 per annum + OTE + Incentives + Benefits: SThree: Established f...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE 40/45k + INCENTIVES + BENEFITS: SThree: The su...

Recruitment Genius: Collections Agent

£14000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company was established in...

Day In a Page

The long walk west: they fled war in Syria, only to get held up in Hungary – now hundreds of refugees have set off on foot for Austria

They fled war in Syria...

...only to get stuck and sidetracked in Hungary
From The Prisoner to Mad Men, elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series

Title sequences: From The Prisoner to Mad Men

Elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series. But why does the art form have such a chequered history?
Giorgio Armani Beauty's fabric-inspired foundations: Get back to basics this autumn

Giorgio Armani Beauty's foundations

Sumptuous fabrics meet luscious cosmetics for this elegant look
From stowaways to Operation Stack: Life in a transcontinental lorry cab

Life from the inside of a trucker's cab

From stowaways to Operation Stack, it's a challenging time to be a trucker heading to and from the Continent
Kelis interview: The songwriter and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell and crying over potatoes

Kelis interview

The singer and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell
Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea