OVER the past decade 145 members of the public have made donations to the UK government ranging from 1p to £600,000 in order to help pay off the national debt.
The Treasury has revealed that since April 2004, a total of £2,691,241.12 has been donated to help bring down the national debt, which currently stands at over £1 trillion, 90 per cent of GDP.
The revelation has fuelled calls for the UK government to set up a formal system that would allow people to make donations more easily to the Treasury, on top of the taxes they pay.
It is understood that the donations came from money bequeathed in wills as well as direct payments by public-spirited individuals. However, the amount raised is unlikely to help Chancellor George Osborne narrow the deficit, which is the difference between what the government raises in revenues and what it spends.
This week Mr Osborne said he had reduced the deficit by a third, £49 billion, to just over £100bn since coming to power in 2010. The government argues debt is at the heart of the UK’s economic problems and has brought in austerity measures to help bring down the deficit.
The information on donations was in a written answer from the government to Lib Dem MP for Gordon, Sir Malcolm Bruce, who wants a US-style donations system to be created.
Mr Bruce said: “The figures reported from the Treasury of voluntary payments and gifts to the Crown from members of the public in order to reduce the national debt are intriguing. There have been appeals for voluntary contributions in the past but the scale of the debt is such that we would need a lot more than the single-penny contributions that have been recorded in previous years. It might be useful to enable those individuals who have inherited or won a large sum of money and who are so minded to have a facility like the USA’s model, which will allow online donations.
There is scope for a debate, however, as to whether it would be better to encourage rich, private entrepreneurs to invest in other initiatives that would generate revenues and so enable the government itself to pay off the debt faster.”
Treasury minister Sajid Javid said that systems are available for the public-spirited to help pay off the national debt.
He said: “Gifts to the Crown for the reduction of the national debt are processed by the Commissioners for the Reduction of the National Debt (CRND) at the Debt Management Office (DMO). CRND has a statutory function to manage any donations and payments given with respect to gifts for the reduction of the national debt. Information on the CRND is available on the DMO’s website.
“Members of the public wishing to make donations for the purpose of reducing the national debt can contact the department by phone, email or in writing. Payments can be made by cheque, or directly to the donations and bequests bank account at the Bank of England.
“The government currently assesses these arrangements to be appropriate but continues to keep them under review.”