OBR chief 'not told of £25bn plan'
The independent economic forecaster was kept in the dark about a multibillion-pound infrastructure plan because Treasury officials were not sufficiently confident it would work, its head has suggested.
Robert Chote, chairman of the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR), spoke out after MPs questioned why the scheme was not included in its latest forecast for the UK economy.
Chancellor George Osborne announced in his Autumn Statement a week ago that he was looking to large private pension funds to provide up to £25 billion to fund major projects.
Until that point the OBR "knew no more than what all of us read in the newspapers", Mr Chote said of the plan, which was widely trailed in the media ahead of the statement.
But he indicated that having advance notice would probably not have changed its gloomy analysis of the prospects for economic recovery because of the lack of firm evidence behind it.
"The Treasury come to us in advance of when we are putting this report together to tell us of the policy measures which they believe that we ought to take into account in the central economic forecast," he told the Treasury Select Committee.
"They didn't come to us with the big thick book and say 'please can you take this into account' presumably on the basis - you'll have to ask them when they appear before you - about what time period they expect this to happen, how confident they are or whether they regard this as potential they wish to unlock, how easy it will be."
He went on: "The very fact that the Treasury did not come to us and say 'this is a policy that we think you ought to include because we think there's a confidently estimable estimate of the impact it would make on the aggregate economic forecast' is probably telling you something anyway about the amount of evidence at this stage.
"That's not to rule out the fact that there is potential for this and that might affect our future business investment forecasts."
Asked whether advance notice of the plan would have changed the forecasts, he said: "I don't think so. They are identifying potential schemes here. The question is whether they can be designed in such a way that they deliver."