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When Professor David Miles replaced Sir Charles Bean at the Office for Budget Responsibility, Rishi Sunak said he would “strengthen the existing independent and authoritative analysis of the OBR”.
Now the Chancellor’s recommendation has bit back after his spring statement got upended by the economic forecaster’s dire warnings on living standards.
On Monday, the OBR told the Treasury select committee that the Chancellor’s support measures are not targeting benefits claimants. “I suspect there will be very few people who don’t feel a very real cut in their standard of living,” Miles told MPs.
The Chancellor now “viscerally hates” the OBR, according to The Times, for passing “policy judgements” rather than assessing “the implications of current stated government policy”.
This is not the first time Sunak has clashed with the OBR. Last year, he disagreed with its claim that Brexit will have double the hit on growth compared to the pandemic, telling the Today Programme: “That’s their view, what I’m doing is making sure we capitalise on the opportunities.”
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The could-be Tory leader, rightly, has reasons to be peeved off with the OBR, a body which consistently gets its fiscal forecasts wrong, not least because it damages his leadership credentials.
But Olly Bartrum, a senior economist at the Institute for Government, says calling into question the independent body’s credibility – because their forecasts are unhelpful for the government – is “unwelcome”, adding: “It is a worrying reflection of this government’s allergy to scrutiny and an unfounded attack on important UK institution”.