Osborne unveils new UK spending watchdog
Published 18/05/2010 | 05:00
Britain's Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, unveiled a new watchdog yesterday that would monitor government spending and stop ministers "fiddling" growth and borrowing forecasts.
The chancellor said the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) would give greater credibility to the figures that were unveiled on Budget day.
He also announced that he would disclose next week how the coalition Government would find £6bn in Whitehall savings to help reduce the deficit. David Laws, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, said the cuts would be early and "aggressive."
Mr Osborne warned that if action was not taken to combat the deficit, the consequences could be "disastrous".
Accusing the previous Labour government of consistently misleading the public, Mr Osborne said the OBR would be in charge of growth and borrowing forecasts.
"Again and again, the temptation to fiddle the figures, to nudge up a growth forecast here or reduce a borrowing number there, to make the numbers add up has proved too great, and that is a significant part of the reason for our current problems," he said.
"I am the first Chancellor to remove the temptation to fiddle figures by giving up control of the economic and fiscal forecasts. I recognise that this will create a rod for my back down the line.
"That is the whole point. We need to fix the Budget to fit the figures, not fix the figures to fit the Budget."
Alan Budd, a veteran economist who has held several Whitehall posts, will chair the OBR. He began work last Thursday and said yesterday that it was going "very well".
He said his three-man Budget Responsibility Committee would not be able to get all the forecasts right but "every judgment will be ours and we guarantee the independence and integrity of our work".
Alistair Darling, the former Labour chancellor, denied suggestions that he had colluded with Treasury officials to dupe the public.
"The suggestion that Treasury civil servants have colluded in publishing anything other than accurate figures is just plain wrong," he said.
"We're required in law to set out forecasts that take account of all decisions taken and we've published these in Budgets and pre-Budget reports." (© Daily Telegraph, London)