"We write what we want": OBR chief Robert Chote reappointed after playing down Treasury influence over summer Budget economic forecasts

 
Chris Papadopoullos
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Reports have surfaced of Tresury influence over OBR forecasts (Source: Getty)

Robert Chote has been reappointed as chief of the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) following a grilling from MPs in which he fended off accusations that the watchdog had been influenced by the Treasury in its analysis of the summer Budget.

However, the saga is not yet over as more evidence has been demanded from the TSC on communications between the OBR and the Treasury.

After being questioned on the accusations by the Treasury Select Committee (TSC), Chote said bluntly: “We write what we want. The record shows we don’t fight shy at using phraseology I’m the sure the chancellor would rather we didn’t.”
In December the OBR, which is designed to make economic and financial projects independent of political tinkering, pointed out that spending would fall to its lowest share of GDP since the 1930s and said departmental spending after the budget in March would be a “rollercoaster”.
“In 20 years as a journalist and at the Institute of Fiscal Studies writing about Treasury policy, I’ve been treated to the 'I know where you live routine' and 'you’ll never work in this town again routine' more times than I care to remember. It didn’t affect me then, it wouldn’t affect me now,” he told the committee, which is headed by Andrew Tyrie.
“If I was being put under serious pressure by the chancellor or serious officials I would tell them to buzz off and I would tell you what was going on. But I’m not going to sit here and beat up on a hard working grade six for having the temerity to offer us unsolicited drafting advice.”
His defence comes after a story that first broke in the Times revealed one person at the Treasury tried to influence the OBR's analysis of the summer budget.
And it clearly convinced the committee, which reappointed him just a few hours later.
Tyrie said: “The committee is satisfied that Robert Chote has the professional competence and personal independence to be reappointed as chair of the OBR. His work over the last four years reflects this.”

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