Philip Inman’s article (Britain’s rising debt problem needs urgent attention, 25 September) not only highlights the limited role of the OBR in not questioning the Treasury’s assumptions about the future path of the economy while merely checking the calculations.
It also points to a more important truth: that the Treasury is often wrong in forecasting the economic consequences of its actions, notably in its 2010 view that austerity would have very little impact on growth. It seems to see its main role as guardian of the government’s finances and, in particular, its credit rating and ability to borrow on the best possible terms. The independent Bank of England may now be seen as being the chief player in regulating economic growth through monetary policy.
Harold Wilson’s 1960s government recognised a similar weakness and set up a Department of Economic Affairs to cover the ground left vacant by the Treasury. This was not a success for a variety of reasons, but there remains a need for the Treasury’s proposed actions to be reviewed independently for their economic consequences and for a holistic consensus to be built upon what action is needed at any particular time. Quite separately, it should be noted that monetary policy and its effects on the economy would require in some way to be coordinated with such consensus.
• There has been a huge amount of coverage and interest in fixed-odds betting terminals and the amounts of money being lost by those playing them. The maximum stake on Fobts is £100 a spin (every 20 seconds), which is 13 times the national minimum wage . I have played a small part in this coverage with my story of Fobt addiction in the Guardian newspaper in January 2015, and a follow-up to this story in April 2016.
All this media coverage is timely as the government is due next month to make public the findings of its long-awaited review into Fobts. Meanwhile, the bookmakers profit to the tune of £5m a day, with much of this coming from those like myself who have requested to be excluded, but are still allowed to play and relapse on the machines. Any further delay in a reduction of the stake from £100 to £2 could be construed as government complicity in the continued harm of its citizens.
Source: The Guardian