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Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Orifice Of Budget Responsibility

Sir Alan Budd, who is leaving as Chairman of the Office for Budget Responsibility after a mere 3 months in the role, appeared before the Treasury Select Committee (TSC) yesterday.

The TSC was keen to probe beneath the public perception that the OBR is not as "independent" as the government, and indeed OBR, would have us believe.

Sir Alan claimed that he had not come under political pressure recently, even though he released public sector jobs data early. He claimed that this was to correct a misinterpretation of figures leaked to the media, the fact that this was of benefit to David Cameron who used the data with glee was (of course) irrelevant.

Sir Alan, who has yet has no successor to replace him, has issued advice to the successor as to the future of the OBR eg:

- the need to relocate it outside the Treasury,
- allow Parliament a role in appointments to the OBR's key committee
- employ both external and Treasury staff to produce its forecasts and analysis.

He neglected to add that his future successor needs to be put on a contract longer than 3 months, allegedly the length of Sir Alan's contract (one wonders why, if that is truly the case, there is no successor lined up yet?) if he/she is to be effective.

As to whether the government and Treasury actually want a truly independent OBR, remains to be seen. Doubtless their choice of Sir Alan's successor may shed some light on that.

We await the announcement with interest!

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