During its first decade in operation the Office for Budget Responsibility has established itself as a fixed part of the UK’s institutional landscape, delivering high quality publications, reducing bias in official forecasts and bringing greater transparency to the public finances, according to an external review led by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development.
The review notes that the OBR has already operated under four Chancellors and that it has broad support across the political spectrum. But it warns that confidence in the management of the UK public finances could easily be undermined if the current or a future government were to impede the independent scrutiny that the OBR provides or were to be less supportive of its role.
The review makes a number of recommendations, addressed to both the Government and the OBR. These include: clarifying current legislation on the timing of forecasts; holding fiscal events on fixed dates; ensuring that the OBR has adequate resources; avoiding ‘mission creep’; engaging more with other economists and fiscal analysts; increasing the profile of non-forecast outputs; avoiding overlong publications; engaging more with Parliament; and continuing to increase staff diversity.
The review was conducted by a four-person team: Lisa Von Trapp, of the OECD’s Public Governance Directorate; Peter Fontaine, formerly of the US Congressional Budget Office; Michal Horvath, former Permanent Secretary of the EU independent fiscal institutions network; and Gemma Tetlow, Chief Economist of the Institute for Government. It was commissioned by the non-executive members of the OBR’s oversight board, as required by legislation once every five years.