Chote promises fiscal forecaster will be independent after Budd controversy

ROBERT Chote, the new chair of the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR), yesterday said he would not rush out data to provide political ammunition for the government, in a thinly-veiled criticism of his predecessor Sir Alan Budd.

Chote insisted that the OBR would be “transparent and predictable” in the future, adding “that means predictability about what we’re intending to produce and when we’re intending to produce it”.

He was referring to Sir Alan’s decision to leak the OBR’s unemployment forecasts in June, allowing David Cameron to use the figures as ammunition in a highly-charged session of Prime Minister’s questions.

The episode lead to accusations of bias in the OBR, which was created by George Osborne to provide economic forecasts that are free of political interference. Sir Alan has since apologised, saying he “enormously regrets” the effect the leak had on the OBR’s reputation.

Chote, who will leave his post as director of the IFS before joining the OBR, was
speaking at a session of the influential Treasury select committee (TSC), which confirmed his appointment as the permanent chair of the forecast watchdog.

Andrew Tyrie, chairman of the TSC, said: “He is very well qualified professionally for the post, having demonstrated his independence of mind.”

Labour MP and TSC member Chuka Umunna also welcomed the appointment. “He was the obvious appointment: well-qualified and respected across the economic community. Above all, he will bring much-needed independence to the role,” he said.