The Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) has calculated that the national debt is £4.8 trillion once state and public sector pension liabilities are included, or £78,000 for every person in the UK
The IEA raised its concerns after the latest public finances data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) this week, which showed that the total debt, excluding bank bail-outs, is £816bn – itself a record high. However, the figures strip out the state's pension liabilities in a contravention of standard accounting practices.
Mark Littlewood, the IEA's director-general, said: "The latest official national debt figure is seriously misleading. Looming in the background are pension liabilities. These should be moved to the forefront.
"The ONS should include these liabilities in their calculations. It is shocking enough to see official figures revealing a jump in national debt over the last year from the equivalent of 48pc of GDP to 56pc, but the grave reality is that our real national debt stands at 333pc of GDP."