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
  • Get to the point
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: Retirement Coordinator - Financial Services

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: To provide a prompt, friendly and efficient se...

Recruitment Genius: Annuities / Pensions Administrator

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: You will be the first point of contact for all...

Ashdown Group: HR, Payroll & Benefits Officer - Altrincham - up to £24,000.

£18000 - £24000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: HR, Payroll & Benefits Of...

Ashdown Group: Learning and Development Programme Manager

£35000 - £38000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, int...

Day In a Page

The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

The saffron censorship that governs India

Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

How did fandom get so dark?

Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

Disney's mega money-making formula

'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

Lobster has gone mainstream

Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

14 best Easter decorations

Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

Paul Scholes column

Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss