Holt to step down as chief of ONS

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TIM HOLT, director of the Office for National Statistics, announced yesterday that he is to step down, probably at the end of the year, writes Diane Coyle. His successor will have the job of steering the organisation to greater independence, after the Government publishes detailed plans in a White Paper soon.

The ONS was criticised for last year's fiasco over average earnings figures. The Bank of England and Treasury ordered an inquiry into the reason for two sets of dramatic revisions to the figures, which could have swayed the Bank's interest-rate decisions.

A report from the House of Commons Treasury Committee in December did not criticise Dr Holt. It said the ONS, a semi-autonomous government agency formed from the Central Statistical Office, was underfunded and poorly structured. It said, however: "In view of the many challenges facing the ONS, strong leadership, both from its director and ministers, is vital."

This year Patricia Hewitt, the Treasury minister responsible for official statistics, ordered a shake-up of ONS management. This followed a KPMG report identifying pounds 20m in savings.

Ms Hewitt said Mr Holt's decision would allow a smooth transition to the new arrangements under a new director. A Green Paper last year set out four options for the new agency, of varying degrees of independence.