Sir Alan Budd on the OBR
He came out of retirement to help end political meddling in economic forecasting.
THE outgoing head of the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) is looking forward to a quieter life in East Devon.
Sir Alan Budd, 72, moved to Sidmouth from Oxford with his wife Susan two years ago.
He came out of retirement this year to be interim chairman of the OBR, set up by chancellor George Osborne to end political meddling in economic forecasting.
There has been much speculation in the media regarding his departure, set for Friday, August 13, but he stressed that it was only ever a temporary post.
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“I agreed to do it because George Osborne wanted the office in place in time for the first Budget,” he said. “It would’ve been difficult to appoint someone permanent because the job might not have existed if the Tories hadn’t won the election.”
His proudest moments during the three-month stint were producing the pre-Budget and Budget forecast reports. “They were two very complete documents,” he said.
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“They contained enormous amounts of information, more than ever had been provided before.
“To produce them in such a short time was a very great achievement.”
The OBR was criticised that while it was designed to stop ministers fiddling the numbers to suit their policies, it’s not truly independent from the coalition government. Sir Alan faced the Treasury Committee on July 13 to answer these accusations.
He said. “Even though I offered a complete explanation to the committee, some people chose not to believe it.
“A lot of it was people who disagreed with the Budget; because they wanted to attack the Budget they attacked our forecasts.”
That the OBR attracted so much attention was down to timing. “It was set up at the time of a crucial Budget, as George Osborne decided more needed to be done to reduce the deficit,” said Sir Alan.
“I hope that, from now on, forecasting will be regarded as a routine, rather boring activity.”
To show its independence, the OBR should move out of the Treasury building, he said: “It’s irrelevant, but would be symbolic.”
He was not surprised that Prime Minister David Cameron and his deputy Nick Clegg formed a coalition. “They have similar backgrounds. Let’s wait and see what policies they can agree on.”
A new OBR chairman should be appointed in September and, in a unique move, the chancellor has given the treasury committee veto over the selection. “He recognises that this is a very important post and wants there to be no question over the quality of the person appointed to do it,” said Sir Alan.
Sir Alan is happy to be stepping out of the limelight and spending more time in Sidmouth.
He will be continuing his work with the Tax Law Review Committee and the World Economics Journal.