The Chancellor can make great play of the fact that his forecasts are no longer made by the Treasury but by the independent Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR), established shortly after the 2010 election. The Opposition instead has to see its proposals “costed” by government officials, on the basis not of their assumptions, but those made by government special advisers. Not surprisingly, the shadow Chancellor, Ed Balls, would like his sums, based on his interpretation, vetted by the OBR to give them equality of credibility. Is it feasible? Not without some changes to the OBR. Last year, as part of our series on evidence and evaluation in policy making, OBR Chairman Robert Chote made clear he thought this option could be “good for politics” but noted that the OBR was currently specifically excluded from looking at alternative policies. He thought it was worth considering when Parliament reviews the OBR after its first five years – in autumn 2015, just after the May 2015 election. But he also noted that the OBR with just 17 staff – was not currently equipped to do a serious job on opposition manifestos. It would require either a big boost to its staff – or […]

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