Public sector value-for-money report due before election

THE GOVERNMENT could be handed a pre-election windfall from plans that emerged yesterday to rush out a report on value for money in public services just before polling day.

The Office of National Statistics said it planned to incorporate major changes to the way the output of education, public order and social services are calculated when calculating economic growth. Len Cook, the National Statistician, said he aimed to publish the changes to historic figures in nine key areas "before the end of April".

The figures could potentially lead to a massive improvement to the measurement of public sector output and productivity going back several years for areas such schools, childcare, prisons and the police.

The issue of value for money in public services will be a key election battleground in the wake of claims by the Conservatives that the billions of pounds the Government has poured in are being lost in wage rises and red tape. The changes follow the publication yesterday of a year-long review by Sir Tony Atkinson, a leading academic economist, that made more than 50 recommendations on the way the ONS produces its public sector growth figures.

The issue was plunged into controversy after it emerged Mr Cook would have the power to decide whether to publish those figures if a general election is called for 5 May.

The ONS confirmed it would follow government guidance, which says Mr Cook can decide whether to release ad hoc statistics during a hustings period. It risks a repeat of a political row a year ago when the ONS used Sir Tony's interim findings to produce figures showing that NHS output had risen 29 per cent between 1995 and 2003. This was up from the 19 per cent previously calculated, adding as much as 0.1 per cent to annual GDP. It triggered accusations by the Conservatives that the Government was using Atkinson as a "propaganda tool".

Yesterday Oliver Letwin, the shadow Chancellor, published a draft Bill to give greater independence to national statisticians. "Public trust in national statistics is at an all-time low. We are absolutely determined to rid the system of political interference," he said. Commenting on the issue of pre-election changes to public services data, a Tory spokesman said: "Given the political sensitivity of the issue, why on earth are they looking to rush out new data just before a general election?"

Mr Cook said he was aware of the political sensitivity, adding that he did not yet know whether anything would be published before polling day. "It is my responsibility as National Statistician to uphold the continuing integrity and acceptance of the national accounts," he said. "Statistics that measure public sector activity have a sensitivity in public life."

In his report Sir Tony, the warden of Nuffield College Oxford, made 54 recommendations on how to improve the measurement of the output and productivity of the public services. "The method of measuring government output can make a considerable difference to the recorded growth rate of the economy," he said. "There is an intrinsic case based on public accountability for seeking to measure what is achieved by spending on public services."

In a separate move to calm markets in the run-up to an election, the Bank of England said the meeting of its Monetary Policy Committee on interest rates would be delayed if it fell on polling day.

Meanwhile, Gordon Brown insisted the Government would meet its fiscal rules, after a warning by the Institute for Fiscal Studies that the Government would order a pounds 13bn tax increase to fill a hole in the public finances.

Outlook, page 37

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
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

Ashdown Group: Business Analyst - Financial Services - City, London

£50000 - £55000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Business Analyst - Financial Service...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + OTE £45K: SThree: At SThree, we like to be differe...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + competitive: SThree: Did you know? SThree is the o...

Recruitment Genius: Administrator - IFA Based

£22000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions