Dead Men Left

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

"Prudence with a purpose"

Iron Chancellor reduced to "fiddling" accounts:

The Treasury was embroiled in a row over "fiddled figures" on Friday night after government statisticians said they would reclassify public sector accounts ahead of the Budget in a way that could save the chancellor from breaking his self-imposed rules on borrowing...

In a footnote to the public finance figures, the ONS said it would make a "substantial" reclassification of road maintenance from current expenditure to capital expenditure.

Since capital expenditure does not count as spending in Mr Brown's "golden rule" - only to borrow to invest over the economic cycle - the change could provide billions of pounds of additional leeway and make the difference between keeping the rule and breaking it...

In a statement on Friday night, the ONS acknowledged that the Treasury influenced its decision to reclassify the statistics but said the influence had not been "improper". It added: "There was a joint study with Treasury statisticians but the decision to make the revision was made by the national statistician alone."

Prudence indeed.