Bank of England policymakers question competence of ONS

Economics experts' frustration with delay to statisticians' 'Blue Book' starts to boil over

The Bank of England has begun to question the competence of the Office for National Statistics, The Independent has learnt. Senior policymakers at the Bank feel they are being let down by the statistical gathering organisation, which last month announced a delay in the publication of its national accounts statistics, known as the Blue Book, for the second time in two years.

The Blue Book was originally due to be published on 1 November. But the ONS announced in September that the full data will now not be released until 23 November, due to the need to make revisions. The Bank of England was planning to use the Blue Book figures in preparations for its November growth and inflation forecast.

The Bank's report will be published, as scheduled, on 16 November, but Threadneedle Street researchers will now not have access to the range of data that they would normally rely upon to make their calculations.

"It's a question of competence, of getting quality data in a timely fashion in the manner of other countries," said a senior source at the Bank.

The frustration over the Blue Book is only the latest in a long line of complaints from Bank officials about the performance of the official statistics-gathering agency. Andrew Sentance, who left the Bank's Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) in May, said: "There are long-standing concerns at the Bank about the quality of the economic data from the ONS. My own reaction was not to regard it as gospel. The ONS is like one data point – you have to look at a wide variety."

Mr Sentance also says the Bank's doubts about the reliability of ONS figures is the reason why the MPC has, in recent years, published its own estimates of historic GDP data, alongside those of the ONS, in its quarterly growth forecasts. He also said the MPC has been looking at a wider range of data sources because of concerns about the quality of the ONS's output. In its official 2010/11 assessment of the ONS, the Bank judged the agency's performance "satisfactory", but complained about the 12-day delay in the publication of the 2010 national accounts for the first quarter. It said: "That reduced the information set available to the MPC at the time of their July meeting, and also caused disruptions to the August 2010 forecast process."

Some at the Bank of England have also voiced frustration with the ONS's new website, which was launched in August to "make it easier for our users to find the content they are looking for". But many users have complained that the site actually makes it more difficult to access economic data.

The ONS yesterday put the blame for the delay in the Blue Book on a "major new international [data] classification change" and stressed that it had given the Bank as much early information as it could. "We gave the Bank exceptionally early pre-release access for operational reasons," said a spokesman.

Many private-sector forecasters have expressed similar concerns about the ONS's performance. "There are no excuses for these delays," said Simon Goodwin, a senior economic adviser to the Ernst & Young Item Club. "It makes life very difficult, and not just for us but also for other forecasters like the Bank of England too."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Advisor

£15000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Advisors are r...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £45K: SThree: SThree were established in 1986....

Recruitment Genius: Compliance Manager

£40000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Compliance Manager is require...

SThree: Talent Acquisition Consultant

£22500 - £27000 per annum + OTE £45K: SThree: Since our inception in 1986, STh...

Day In a Page

John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
Forget little green men - aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert

Forget little green men

Leading evolutionary biologist says aliens will look like humans
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

An Algerian scientist struggles to adjust to her new life working in a Scottish kebab shop
Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

Dying dream of Doctor Death

Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy
UK heatwave: Temperature reaches 39.8 degrees on Central Line - the sweatiest place in London

39.8 degrees recorded on Tube

There's hot (London) and too damn hot (the Underground). Simon Usborne braved the Central line to discover what its passengers suffer
Kitchens go hi-tech: From robot chefs to recipe-shopping apps, computerised cooking is coming

Computerised cooking is coming

From apps that automatically make shopping lists from your recipe books to smart ovens and robot chefs, Kevin Maney rounds up innovations to make your mouth water
Jessie Cave interview: The Harry Potter star has published a feminist collection of cartoons

Jessie Cave's feminist cartoons

The Harry Potter star tells Alice Jones how a one-night stand changed her life
Football Beyond Borders: Even the most distruptive pupils score at homework club

Education: Football Beyond Borders

Add football to an after-school homework club, and even the naughtiest boys can score
10 best barbecue books

Fire up the barbie: 10 best barbecue books

We've got Bibles to get you grilling and smoking like a true south American pro
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Junk balls and chop and slice are only way 5ft 1in Kurumi Nara can live with Petra Kvitova’s power

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

Junk balls and chop and slice are only way 5ft 1in Kurumi Nara can live with Petra Kvitova’s power
Ron Dennis exclusive: ‘This is one of the best McLaren teams ever – we are going to do it’

‘This is one of the best McLaren teams ever – we are going to do it’

Ron Dennis shrugs off a poor start to the season in an exclusive interview, and says the glory days will come back
Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most