The Office of Budget What?

The Office for Budget Responsibility is starting to make a few announcements, and its role is becoming clearer. The question is not so much whether the Conservatives are going to tell endless lies about the economic situation. There may be the occasional white lie, I suppose. The question, to my mind, is whether Brown and Darling were lying.

There were some very odd things going on. Darling is said to have hidden money from Brown, for example. The Treasuries Spending Outturn Report in December 2009 contains no less than £180 billion worth of unexplained ‘Accounting Adjustments’ which somehow reduced government spending from £800 billion to £620 billion, in the process bringing the Chancellor back within his borrowing requirement projection, despite revenues falling by a substantial figure throughout the year, as reported month on month in the media. His original spending projection had been £670 billion. Is it likely that his spending came in so much lower in reality?

But the OBR is not going to delve into such sensitive matters. The OBR is only going to be talking about the future.

From the FT –

Remind me, what is the role of the OBR?
Once it is on a proper statutory basis, the OBR will take the final decisions on the government’s economic forecasts and draw up estimates of the effects of tax and spending changes, so the chancellor will no longer have the ultimate say.

Twice a year, it will also report on whether the government has a 50:50 chance of meeting its medium-term ambitions for the public finances or whether tax rises or spending cuts are prudent.

But will Monday’s announcement be different?
Yes. It is merely a presentation of the latest official economic forecasts for the economy and the public finances.

So we will get forecasts only, it appears. No look will be taken at what has gone on previously.

Of course if spending was in fact much higher than Brown admitted to, soaring to unimaginable levels this would scare markets, and it would be well to keep it under wraps. Osborne can cut the spend down to the admitted level without having to admit to cutting a penny.

Brown imagined that it would be his entitlement to be claiming there were in fact no cuts taking place, while he was slashing and burning after the election. Osborne might as well take the free political ride, and carry on the scheme designed and planned by Brown.

That is no doubt why the OBR is taking no responsibility for what has gone on before. It’s what politicians do when they are planning to cover up information. They create a separate office to make all the announcements, so they are one stage removed from all the shenanigans. It’s one way of taking Responsibility, I suppose. Look ahead only. Why look back to the Brownian nightmare? It is finally over, after all.

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