Robert chote

OBR chief ignores critics to heap more Brexit gloom upon MPs

Last week the Office for Budget Responsibility revised down its forecasts, suggesting the economy would only expand by 1.4pc in the next year — and warning there would be a knock-on effect on the public finances. While the OBR’s chairman Robert Chote put the gloomy predictions down to uncertainty from the Brexit vote, several Leave champions — including Jacob Rees-Mogg and Michael Gove — have since accuse the OBR of being on shaky ground. Today Chote was hauled before the Treasury Select Committee to defend the forecasts. While Chote joshed that there was every chance it could be proved wrong as ‘that is the nature of forecasts’, he struck a sombre tone as he warned

And now a porkie from Labour: spending is not (really) heading back to 1930s levels

Another day, another poster – and this time, it’s Labour stretching the truth. The above is the same trick as George Osborne was playing with the deficit. The reader is invited to believe that the Tories would cut state spending back to 1930s levels ‘when there was no NHS’ – or much of a welfare state at all, come to think of it. In truth, George Osborne has (unwisely, in my view) pledged to increase NHS spending if re-elected and overall state spending will be at least five times higher than in the 1930s. So how can Labour get away with this – and how did this deception enter the

Budget 2014: what Osborne didn’t tell us about the crunch to come

Getting to the truth of a Budget is far easier under George Osborne’s new system. His creation, the Office for Budget Responsibility, now writes its own report  (pdf here) and it’s like having your own mole in the Treasury flag up what the Chancellor would rather gloss over*. I read its report over the weekend – it’s too rich a document to skim on Budget day. I found a few charts that CoffeeHousers may be interested in. The graphs are all about Osborne’s decision to defer tough decisions – what James Forsyth brilliantly called his Saint Augustine tendency: give me fiscal discipline, Oh Lord – but not yet. Osborne’s glacial progress on

Mr and Mrs Treasury

Congratulations to Mr and Mrs Treasury. HMT has today announced the appointment of Sharon White, the current Director General over at Horseguards, as Second Permanent Secretary. Who she? Well, she’s none other than the wife of Robert Chote, the chief of the Office of Budget Responsibility. The OBR was set up in 2010 by George Osborne to provide independent analysis and advice on Treasury policy. It is meant to be completely independent, so no pillow talk please.

We’ve shown forecasts are unreliable, jokes OBR chief

‘We’ve done quite a good job at demonstrating the limitations of economic forecasting,’ half-joked Office for Budget Responsibility Chairman Robert Chote at the start of his Treasury Select Committee appearance this morning. And he spent a lot of his answers emphasising those limitations, while robustly defending himself against charges that the OBR is just making it up. His challenge was to explain to sceptical MPs why we should pay attention to the OBR’s new forecasts, given that their previous ones have missed by so much. For the OBR’s economic forecasts — rather than its forecasts for the public finances — Chote admitted that ‘we don’t have access to any information

With friends like the OBR, George Osborne hardly needs enemies

The Office of Budget Responsibility was created to be George Osborne’s friend. The theory was that under the leadership of Sir Alan Budd, the OBR would urge the Chancellor to cut. Budd would be listened to more than Robert Chote, who was then running the IFS. But when Sir Alan quit unexpectedly, Chote took over. Since then, the OBR has become the in-house prophet of doom. It not only points to a growth-free future for Britain, but keeps getting its forecasts wrong. It is proving laughably unreliable as a means for working out the likely effect of UK government policy. In the Telegraph today, Doug McWilliams who wrote the original brief for

The OBR warns of a fiscal storm

The Office for Budget Responsibility’s 126-page Fiscal Sustainability Report really oughtn’t make for electrifying reading. But it does. What Robert Chote and his gang of number-crunchers have done is to gaze into our fiscal abyss, and summon up forecasts so that the abyss can gaze back into us. I mean, look at the graph above. On the OBR’s account, our country’s debt burden could well rise from around 70 per cent of GDP now to over 100 per cent in 50 years time. It is a perturbing trajectory, to say the least. But, before we go any further, we should slap all kinds of health warnings across this. Long-term forecasting

Hard going for the government

A tough morning for the government at the hands of Tyrie, Fallon and rest of the Treasury Select Committee. Sir Alan Budd apologised for his naivety, Robert Chote described the Budget as ‘regressive’ in the main and the banking levy has been criticised on the grounds that is de-stabilising banks’ capital bases, which will affect lending. The government would prefer silence on these issues but the damage was far from total. Budd was an interim figure and the spat that has developed around him is largely political – there is no question that Budd was ‘nobbled’. Robert Chote deserves his reputation but he is not infallible. And Treasury Chief Economic

The Tory response to Osborne’s Spending Review

George Osborne was well received by the 1922 committee of Tory backbenchers when he addressed them on the spending review earlier. There was much thumping of desks, the traditional sign of approval at meetings of the ‘22.   Talking to Tory MPs this afternoon, they are pretty happy with the package. They are glad that the money being taken out of the welfare budget means that the departmental cuts are less than expected. Overall, they think the package is politically sellable and has denied Labour that many targets.   One concern is about how local councils, including Conservative ones, might react to a 28 percent cut in their funding from

OBR Watch

When Sir Alan Budd was head of the Office for Budget Responsibility, there was an insistent argument in opposition circles that the independent body was biased in favour of the coalition. Much of this cented around the OBR’s growth predictions. How on Earth, came the question, can growth hit 2.3 percent next year and 2.8 percent the year after? Isn’t that a bit optimistic in view of all the warnings about a double dip? Won’t the cuts stifle growth? And so on and so on. A few months ago, I produced a graph which showed that, when compared to a range of independent forecasts, the OBR’s growth predictions weren’t really

Robert Chote is the new head of the OBR

Now this should dispel any worries that the Office for Budget Responsibility is partisan in the government’s favour. Robert Chote, director of the Institute for Fiscal Studies and scourge of Osborne’s “regressive” Budget, has been appointed as the body’s new chief. It is, in many repsects, the most sensible and obvious choice. Not only is Chote respected across the political divide, but the OBR is an attempt to institutionalise the kind of fiscal oversight that his IFS has provided for years. I can’t imagine that the Treasury Select Committee will try to block this appointment. In case you missed it first time around, Fraser interviewed Chote for the magazine back

Five lessons for the coalition from today

The coalition has had a bad day today. It has been knocked all over the park following the IFS report that labeled the Budget regressive. Now, I’m sure the coalition will say that if it had to pick a day to take a hammering, one towards the end of August would be what they would have chosen. But I think there are five lessons that the coalition needs to learn from today if it is to navigate successfully through the political shoals of the next few months. 1). It needs a stronger narrative about what it is doing. Mark Hoban was woeful on the Today programme this morning. He had

Send for Chote

And so it continues. The FT reports that Sir Alan Budd has denied that George Osborne cooked the OBR’s job loss forecasts. ‘It was genuinely a forecasting correction with no ministerial interference,’ he said, blandly. The correction was the result of the OBR’s use of a narrow definition of public sector workforce than is employed by other statisticians. That is not abnormal: statisticians are a law unto themselves. But, as the saying goes, it doesn’t look good. The OBR’s figures supported the government and the story is beginning to emit of a whiff of mendacity. Once more, George Osborne is in a mess of his own making. His political instincts veer