Robert Chote to head Office for Budget Responsibility

Robert Chote Robert Chote has had a high profile on TV as head of the IFS

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Economist and former journalist Robert Chote is to become the new head of the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR).

Mr Chote, 41, who currently works for the Institute for Fiscal Studies, will succeed Sir Alan Budd who stepped down from the post last month.

Chancellor George Osborne established the OBR in May to provide analysis of the public finances, government borrowing and other economic data.

He has defended the body against critics who question its independence.

Analysis

For years, both as a journalist and an economist, Robert Chote has been the scourge of successive governments, subjecting their finances to an independent scrutiny that cut through the spin.

In his previous job, as director of the Institute for Fiscal Studies, his instant analysis of Budgets and pre-Budget reports would be leapt on by both the media and the City as a respected take on the Treasury's plans.

As the new head of the Office for Budget Responsibility, his job will be to carry on scrutinising the Treasury's figures and providing some of his own, setting the benchmarks for the chancellor to meet.

The crucial question is how far Mr Chote will be able to maintain his independence now that he has a foot inside Whitehall. The OBR's independence has in recent months been questioned and everyone will be watching to see what Mr Chote does to keep the Treasury at arms length.

And as a familiar and polished media performer, it will be interesting to see how far he goes to raise the public profile of an office that thus far has preferred to remain discreet.

Mr Chote, a former Independent and Financial Times journalist and former International Monetary Fund adviser, is currently director of the IFS - a think tank which has become widely respected for its economic analysis.

The IFS said last month that the coalition's government's first Budget was "regressive" and the lowest paid would be worst affected - analysis rejected as "partial" by Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg.

The appointment, which is subject to parliamentary approval, was announced by Mr Osborne.

Mr Osborne said Mr Chote's "experience and suitability" for the role was "beyond doubt".

"As Director of the Institute for Fiscal Studies, he has been one of the most credible independent voices on the public finances, taxation and public spending," the Chancellor said.

"I hope that the Treasury Select Committee will approve this appointment so that he can lead the OBR in its important work over the next five years."

Mr Chote said he was "delighted" to have been nominated and that if the Treasury Select Committee confirmed his appointment the watchdog would present judgement "without fear or favour".

"The creation of the OBR is a great opportunity to ensure that the tax and spending decisions of this and future governments are informed by demonstrably rigorous and independent analysis of the outlook for the public finances and the economy," he added.

The Office for Budget Responsibility was formed in May with a brief to make an independent assessment of the public finances and the economy for each Budget and pre-Budget report.

Mr Osborne said the aim was to stop ministers manipulating data and forecasts for political purposes.

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