Magazine article Public Finance

Vital Statistics

Magazine article Public Finance

Vital Statistics

Article excerpt

Sir Humphrey Appleby would have described the liming as unfortunale'. Others loss versed in euphemistic Whitehall speak suggested it was a piece of statistical jiggery-pokery'.

They wore referring to the Office for National Statistics decision Lo redassify govornmentspendingon roads as investment, rat her than current expenditure. This may seem a minor technical point and yet it could make all I he difference in Gordon liixnvn's attempt Lo meet, his (!olden IUiIe of only borrowing to invest.

The ONS will reveal the actual figures next, week, but it has already described I he effect of the reclassification as substantial', If applied retrospectively, the total could be as much as £10bn over the economic cycle.

This will clearly bo a boost, to the chancellor, a few weeks ahead of a Budget and a likely general election. I lovvever, if does not look good for the ONS and, in particular, its national statistician, ken Cook.

There has to be some sympathy for Cook. Accountants often differ over what constitutes maintenance and what is an enhancement (ic, an investment). The change on road spending may be pe.rfc-cl.ly valid.

But Cook has form. …

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