S&P in May:
At the moment, and essentially forever into the distant past, forecasts of macroeconomic aggregates like the government budget are prepared by the Treasury and the Office for National Statistics. That is to say, by civil servants who are employed under the provisions of Northcote-Trevelyan, with the right of appeal to their line managers and the Civil Service Commission.
In order to avoid the possibility of political interference, we're asked to believe, they are to be replaced by Sir Alan Budd, and a logo. Why Sir Alan? Because George says so, as far as we can make out. He is, in any sane sense of the word, a political appointee - he's not a civil servant, he's not been elected, he serves at the whim of the executive. Has there been a competition for the job? Really, have any of the normal procedures for making important public appointments been followed? There's hardly been time.
Lord Myners last week:
The OBR is based in the Treasury, it is staffed by people seconded from the Treasury, press inquiries are handled by the Treasury, Sir Alan Budd's appointment letter is signed off by Mr Dave Ramsden, the head of economic forecasting at the Treasury. Sir Alan reports to Mr Ramsden, whose work he's meant to be reviewing."
He could have mentioned the hilarious fact that the independent OBR has a .gov.uk domain name, reserved very strictly in the UK for government departments (OFCOM, the NHS, Parliament, police forces, and the Bank of England aren’t) - independent.gov.uk may be the first ever domain name to be a self-contradiction.
But what gets us about this is that everything Myners said was blindingly obvious at the time. The Tories had pre-recruited Budd as an employee of the party, who then became a political appointee. Independent? There was no attempt at filling the job through open competition, complying with the Nolan rules, or anything else - there wasn’t time. There was no attempt to give OBR its own analytical capability, offices, Web presence, press officer, etc. Budd and his staff, such as it was, were simply attached to the Treasury for pay-and-rations purposes.
And nobody in the national press was willing to ask these simple questions of the Treasury press office. Aren’t they the ones who Just Pick Up The Phone?