Our COVID-19 cost tracker brings together data from across the UK government. It provides estimates of the cost of measures announced in response to the coronavirus pandemic and how much the government has spent on these measures so far.
The aim of the tracker is to increase transparency, and promote scrutiny and parliamentary accountability for government spending. We are publishing it in our role as the UK’s independent public spending watchdog, and will update it periodically.
The tracker is part of our programme of work to report on the government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic. It builds on our report Overview of the UK government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which we published in May 2020. Since then, the government has announced new measures, reassessed how much some existing measures may cost, and spent money on measures in response to the pandemic.
For measures announced on or before 7 August 2020.
Lead organisations involved in the COVID-19 response (includes UK government departments and the Bank of England).
Measures announced for which these departments are responsible.
Total cost estimate for these measures (rounded to the nearest £10 billion, to allow for differences in the accuracy of the underlying costs).
over £70 billion
The amount we know the government has spent on these measures so far (where measures have already been implemented and data are available).
The full data set covers:
- health and social care
- other public services and emergency responses
- support for individuals
- support for businesses
- other support.
It identifies what departments have told us about the measures the government has announced, how much they expect each will cost and how much they have spent on each.
The data are subject to limitations as outlined in the Limitations of the data section below.
What the data include
The data include measures that the government announced on or before 7 August 2020 as part of its response to the COVID-19 pandemic, including those measures for which departments have not estimated a cost.
Where we have been provided with the information, we include the latest estimate of how much each measure is expected to cost and how much has been spent so far.
There is no minimum value threshold for a measure to be included.
For more information on how we identified measures, and collected data and verified it, see the Methodology section below.
Where the data come from
Estimated cost data
These data come from the government and are based on estimates from:
- government departments
- the Bank of England
- the Office for Budget Responsibility.
Estimated costs include the UK government’s allocation of funding to:
- central government departments and their associated organisations
- local authorities in England
- the devolved administrations of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
They do not include further spending decisions taken by local authorities and the devolved administrations.
All estimated costs are government data unless stated otherwise.
Estimated spend data
These data come from the government and represent the amount we know the government has spent on COVID-19 response measures so far, where measures have already been implemented and data are available.
They reflect the government’s and the Bank of England’s spend (outturn), informed by their management information.
For the purposes of this cost-tracker, expenditure means that funds have left the organisation responsible and accountable for them. We refer to these organisations as lead organisations.
The funds may have gone to an individual, a private sector organisation or another public sector organisation.
Limitations of the data
Verifying the data
To allow us to publish financial data in a timely way within the current financial year, we have not carried out a full financial audit to verify all data. We are publishing data as provided to us by departments.
Publishing this departmental data does not prejudice our future audit work or opinions. We are not drawing any value-for-money conclusions about this data.
Government departments have had an opportunity to review and comment on the activities, costs and spend data relating to them.
Not all departments were able to provide us with all the information we requested. For some measures where there has been spend, these data may not yet be available. In addition, spend against some announced measures is yet to start.
Measures do include activities enacted under the Coronavirus Act 2020 to make sure the government could continue to function during the pandemic, for which there are limited or unclear cost implications. (An example of these was releasing local authorities from the requirement to fully assess people who have care needs.)
Rounding of data
Data for different measures are rounded with different levels of precision.
We therefore advise caution when summing these data.
Costs and spend depend on a range of uncertain factors, including the impact of the pandemic on the wider economy and the level of take-up for each scheme.
Comparisons with government publications
The cost tracker separates measures out to a greater degree than information already published by the government. This means it isn’t possible in all cases to reconcile our data with government cost estimates published by HM Treasury or the Office for Budget Responsibility.
The cost tracker shows the estimated gross costs of policy interventions, not the estimated additional cost to the government (that is, how much additional funding departments and devolved administrations will eventually need, over and above their existing levels of funding). In some cases, interventions will involve reprioritising existing funding and resources.
Technicalities such as Barnett formula adjustments have been explained where they are known to be included in costs, but may not be identified in all cases.
The estimated costs of government-backed loans and finance schemes represent estimates of write-off costs (for example, if businesses default on their loans), which have a consequent cost to the government.
Identification of measures
Measures were primarily identified from HM Treasury’s July 2020 publication Plan for Jobs, which includes measures that the government identifies as its COVID-19 response, as at 8 July.
In addition, we identified measures that were not included in Plan for Jobs that:
- the government has announced separately as part of its COVID-19 response
- we included in our May 2020 report Overview of the UK government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic
- we are aware of because of communications with departments as part of our normal statutory function as the government’s external auditor.
We have not applied a minimum value threshold. All relevant measures are included, whatever their estimated cost. We also included measures for which the government has not provided a cost estimate.
We aimed to ensure that the list of measures is as complete as possible. However, not all expenditure will have been identified; for example, the cost of the government’s business-as-usual operations that were reprioritised to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Data collation and verification
For each relevant measure we collated information relating to its estimated cost and spend.
We then approached departments to ask for any missing data and to confirm the accuracy of all data we held that related to that department.