Outgoing chairman of the Office for Budget Responsibility Sir Alan Budd has apologised over any ’misunderstanding’ that arose over the length of time he would stay in the role.
It emerged last week that Budd (pictured) would be leaving as chairman after just three months in the job. The announcement of Budd’s departure was then followed by concerns over the forecasting body’s independence, as it was claimed that public sector job losses figures had been reduced ahead of the emergency Budget.
Giving evidence to the newly appointed Treasury select committee this morning, Budd told MPs that the OBR didn’t come under any pressure to change the numbers within its forecasts, nor was there any pressure to bring forward their publication.
Labour MP for Streatham Chuka Umunna questioned Budd as to why it was not mentioned before that he would stay in the position for three months.
Umunna cited the press notice released when the OBR’s creation was formally announced which quoted Budd as saying: “It is quite remarkable that the Chancellor has given us the authority to produce independent forecasts for the Budget and the pre-Budget report and to provide a public assessment of the action needed to achieve his fiscal mandate and I consider it the most exciting challenge of my professional life.”
Umunna asked Budd: “So the impression given by those comments is certainly that you were going to be in position through to the autumn. Could you perhaps expand for our benefit on the reasons why you decided to leave and perhaps clear up any speculation that it has anything to do with there being a big disagreement between yourself and the Chancellor?”
Budd told the committee: “I think that on the day on which the announcement was made our contracts were available to anybody who wished to see them and it was certainly no intention of mine to mislead anybody about the time which I would spend on the job. What I was not clear about was how long it would take to perform the task which was allocated to the OBR. There’s not a single person who knows me who was not aware that I was only doing this for the emergency Budget. So I regret that there has been a misunderstanding in this matter.”
As the evidence session closed, Budd added: “The events of the past few weeks have personally been very painful indeed. But I don’t complain about that. I volunteered for the job. But I would be deeply sorry if any of the mud that has been thrown at me stuck to the OBR because I do believe it’s a brilliant and courageous innovation. That to me would be a real pity.”
Budd leaves as chairman of the OBR on August 13.