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
Arts and Entertainment
Supporting role: at the Supreme Court, Rhodes was accompanied by a famous friend, the actor Benedict Cumberbatch
booksPianist James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to stop the injunction of his memoirs
Arts and Entertainment
Jesuthasan Antonythasan as Dheepan
filmDheepan, film review
Sport
Steven Gerrard scores for Liverpool
sport
News
peopleComedian star of Ed Sullivan Show was mother to Ben Stiller
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
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

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Neil Pavier: Management Accountant

£45,000 - £55,000: Neil Pavier: Are you looking for your next opportunity for ...

Sheridan Maine: Commercial Accountant

£45,000 - £55,000: Sheridan Maine: Are you a newly qualified ACA/ACCA/ACMA qua...

Laura Norton: Project Accountant

£50,000 - £60,000: Laura Norton: Are you looking for an opportunity within a w...

Day In a Page

Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?