The Exchequer Loan and Bill Commissioners 1793-1875
Originally known as Exchequer Loan Commissioners, the Public Works Loan Commissioners were first appointed as an ad hoc body in 1793 to alleviate commercial distress resulting from the trade recession which followed the French Revolutionary Wars.
In 1817 another single purpose body of Commissioners, known as Exchequer Bill Commissioners, were appointed to provide relief following the Napoleonic Wars. They were to receive "no fee, reward or emolument or gratuity whatever" and their task was to consider applications in respect of any works of a public nature which might aid employment. In subsequent years, instead of appointing further bodies of Commissioners, Parliament prescribed additional purposes for lending for the existing Exchequer Bill Commissioners thus creating the continuous office of the Commissioners which has survived to present time. Over the subsequent 50 years a considerable number of public projects were financed by loans advanced by the Exchequer Bill Commissioners, including, in 1826, £400,000 for improvements to Charing Cross and the Strand which involved the formation of Trafalgar Square. In 1832, £250,000 was used for the construction of the Rotherhithe Tunnel under the River Thames and, in 1846, £200,000 for the establishment of Battersea Park.
The Public Works Loan Commissioners 1875-2020
The next major landmark was the Public Works Loans Act 1875 which created the Public Works Loan Commissioners and replaced the Exchequer Bill Commissioners. The purpose of the Public Works Loan Commissioners was different from that of the Exchequer Bills Commission and the Exchequer Loan Commissioners as it was not focused on relieving commercial distress, but rather on providing funding to specific bodies for certain categories of expenditure. The Public Works Loans Act 1875, together with the National Loans Act 1968, became the prime statutory basis for the constitution, duties and operations of the Public Works Loan Commissioners. The Public Works Loans Act 1875 introduced a requirement that the Public Works Loan Commissioners make an Annual Report to Parliament.
Since the Public Works Loans Act 1875, there have been many changes to the scope of the work of the Public Works Loan Commissioners, which are set out below. In 2004, the decisions around borrowing requirements and how local authorities use PWLB funds were devolved to local authorities. Local authorities must have regard to the prudential framework as set out by CIPFA and MHCLG to ensure they are borrowing prudently. Following this reform, the role of Commissioners was merely ceremonial and existed so that government lending complied with statute. Lending was managed within a policy framework set by HM Treasury and loans were processed through the DMO.
Subsequently, new governance arrangements were proposed in a consultation led by HM Treasury in 2016 and the Public Works Loan Commissioner role was formally abolished on 25 February 2020. Their statutory functions, roles and responsibilities transferred to HM Treasury. Day-to-day administration of PWLB loans continues via the DMO on HM Treasury’s behalf.
Scope of the Public Works Loan Commissioners work and sources of funding 1875-2020
In 1887 the method of funding lending by the Public Works Loan Commissioners was changed as it had become increasingly difficult to estimate the amount of loan applications. A Local Loans Fund was created pursuant to the National Debt and Local Loans Stock Act 1887, which was financed by the issue of Local Loans Stock, borrowings on the security of bonds, temporary borrowing and repayments of loans made. Pursuant to the terms of the Public Works Loans Act 1887, funds raised under the National Debt and Local Loans Stock Act 1887 were used to fund lending by the Public Works Loan Commissioners.
In 1897 the responsibility for fixing the interest rates provided by the Public Works Loan Commissioners became vested in the Treasury, as is still the case today.
By the end of the First World War the foundations of the present local government structure were firmly in place and substantial funding was required for extensive development programmes of local authorities, particularly for housing and town planning; in 1921-22 nearly £49 million was lent for housing alone. By 1939 total lending by the Public Works Loan Commissioners had reached almost £600 million.
Towards the end of the Second World War, the Treasury issued a memorandum to local authorities which referred to the heavy demands on the money market that would be made after the end of the hostilities. It was proposed that local authorities should borrow for their capital development programmes through the government who would themselves raise money as part of their general borrowing programme. The rates of interest on loans to local authorities would be determined by the government’s own credit and the advances would be made by the Public Works Loan Commissioners.
In 1963, a government white paper, noting the increased reliance of local authorities on temporary borrowing, proposed greater access to funding from the Public Works Loan Commissioners in return for a limitation on temporary debt under a Quota System.
The National Loans Act 1968 re-organised the accounting arrangements and, since then, monies for local loans are provided by section 3 of the National Loans Act 1968 and drawn from the National Loans Fund (NLF). Certain obsolete or duplicated lending powers of the Public Works Loan Commissioners were repealed in the 1968 Act and the remainder consolidated. The Treasury’s power to fix the interest rates on loans made by the Public Works Loan Commissioners were re-enacted in terms corresponding with those prescribed for other loans made out of the NLF.
In 1982 the government, in support of its monetary policy, set out to reduce the dependence of local authorities on bank borrowing. The Public Works Loan Commissioners were asked to take steps to increase their share of lending and in a short time they revamped their lending facilities from being a provider of solely longer term fixed rate funding which took up to ten days to advance to a wide range which included variable rate loans and one year minimum periods.
Whilst the scope of the Public Works Loan Commissioners, and the source of funding, changed over time, ultimately the Commissioners were still responsible for assessing whether to lend money and to assess such matters as the level of security that should be required.
In 2000 the government issued a Green Paper, which suggested replacing the then existing credit approval system for controlling capital expenditure with a prudential regime to determine affordability. This Green Paper was followed by a White Paper in 2001, which proposed a new prudential capital finance system. The framework for this proposal was introduced in the Local Government Act 2003. The framework provided by the Local Government Act 2003 was supplemented and developed through the Prudential Code, which was published by Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA). This formed the governance framework for the PWLB lending from 2004.
|Circular 161 detailing the Board’s lending arrangements supersedes Circular 160 issued 9 October 2019||123KB||25 Feb 2020|
|Circular 160 detailing the Board’s lending arrangements supersedes Circular 159 issued 25 May 2018||123KB||9 Oct 2019|
|Circular 159 detailing the Board’s lending arrangements supersedes Circular 158 issued 1 March 2016||338KB||25 May 2018|
|Circular 158 detailing the Board's lending arrangements supersedes Circular 157 issued 22 September 2014.||322KB||1 Mar 2016|
|Circular 157 detailing the Board's lending arrangements supersedes Circular 156 issued 1 November 2013.|
|Circular 156 detailing the Board's lending arrangements supersedes Circular 155 issued 12 August 2013.|
|Circular 155 detailing the Board's lending arrangements supersedes Circular 154 issued 21 December 2012.|
|Circular 154 detailing the Board's lending arrangements supersedes Circular 153 issued 1 November 2012.|
|Circular 153 – detailing the Board's lending arrangements supersedes Circular 152 issued 16 August 2012.|
|Circular 152 - Lending arrangements (supersedes Circular 148 issued 4 January 2011).|
|Circular 151 - replaces Circular 149 and sets out the methodology for calculating interest rates for fixed and variable rate loans.|
|Circular 150 - Announces that the special, reduced rates will be available for applications received on 26th March 2012 only.|
|Circular 149 - Sets out the methodology for calculating interest rates for fixed and variable rate loans.|
|Circular 148 - Detailing the Board's lending arrangements, supersedes Circular 144 and incorporates the changes notified in Circulars 145-147.|
|Circular 147 - Sets out changes to the Board's interest rates following the Chancellor's announcement on the Spending Review.|
Circular 146 - Announces changes to the Board's banking arrangements which take effect on 15 November 2010.
|Circular 145 - Announces an additional question to loan applicants.|
|Circular 144 - Details the Board's lending arrangements, supersedes Circular 138 and incorporates the changes notified in Circulars 139 to 143.|
|Circular 143 - Announces results of last September's consultation and the introduction of routine intra-daily changes to fixed interest rates from Monday 26 April 2010.|
|Circular 142 - Announces a change in the method of calculating interest on the initial broken period on fixed rate loans with effect from 1 December 2009.|
|Circular 141 - explanatory note - Changes to PWLB’s interest rate structure: an explanatory note.|
|Circular 141 - Announces the introduction of a separate set of rates applicable to the early repayment of fixed rate loans with effect from 1 November 2007.|
|Circular 140 - Announces changes to the structure of interest rates applying to fixed rate loans with effect from 1 November 2007.|
|Circular 139 - Maximum period for fixed rate loans|
|Circular 138 - Arrangements for lending to local authorities|
|Circular 137 - Variable rates|
|Circular 136 - Change to the Transaction Timetable|
|Circular 135 - Arrangements for lending to Local Authorities from 1 April 2004|
|Circular 134 - Lending Policy from 1 April 2004|
|Circular 133 - Maximum period for PWLB fixed rate loans|
|Circular 132 - Provision of data to third parties|
|Circular 131 - Arrangements for lending to Local Authorities from 1 April 2003|
|Circular 130 - Arrangements for 2003-2004|
|Circular 129 - Changes to the frequency of review and structure of PWLB lending rates|
|Circular 128 - Change of Address|
|Circular 127 - Arrangements for lending to Local Authorities from 1 April 2002|
|Circular 126 - Quotas for 2002-2003|
|Circular 125 - Refinancing of fixed rate loans|
|Circular 124 - Arrangements for lending to Local Authorities from 1 April 2001|
|Circular 123 - Quota arrangements for 2001-2002|
|Circular 122 - Changes to rate structure; Fees for converting loans|
|Circular 121 - Arrangements for lending to Local Authorities from 1 April 2000|
|Circular 120 - Formula for quotas for 2000-2001|
|Circular 119 - National Loans Fund Lending Rates|
|Circular 118 - Arrangements for lending to Local Authorities from 1 April 1999|
|Circular 117 - Quotas for 1999-2000|
|Circular 116 - Arrangements for lending to Local Authorities from 1 April 1998|
|Circular 115 - Quotas for 1998-99|
|Circular 114 - Arrangements for lending to Local Authorities from 1 April 1997|
|Circular 113 - Option to replace a variable rate loan / Premature repayment of a variable rate loan|
|Circular 112 - Quotas for 1997-98|
|Circular 111 - Option to replace a variable rate loan|