What we do
The Office for Budget Responsibility was created in 2010 to provide independent and authoritative analysis of the UK’s public finances. It is one of a growing number of official independent fiscal watchdogs around the world.
We have four main roles:
- We produce forecasts for the economy and public finances. We publish five-year forecasts twice a year in our Economic and fiscal outlook (EFO) publication. Our spring EFO is published at the same time as the Budget and incorporates the impact of any tax and spending policy measures announced in it. Our annual Forecast evaluation report examines what lessons we can learn from our recent forecasting performance for improving the techniques we use.
- We judge progress towards the Government’s fiscal targets: The Government has set itself two medium-term fiscal targets: first, to balance the cyclically-adjusted current budget five years ahead, and; second, to have public sector net debt falling in 2015-16. In the EFO, we assess whether it has a greater than 50 per cent probability of hitting these targets under current policy. We also test how robust this judgement is, given the uncertainty inherent in all fiscal forecasts.
- We assess the long-term sustainability of the public finances: Our annual Fiscal sustainability report sets out long-term projections for different categories of spending and revenue, analyses the public sector’s balance sheet and reports different indicators of long-term sustainability.
- We scrutinise the Treasury’s costing of Budget measures: During the run-up to Budgets and other policy statements, we subject the Government’s draft costings of tax and spending measures to detailed challenge and scrutiny. We then state in the EFO and the Treasury’s costing documents whether we endorse the costings that the Government finally publishes as reasonable central estimates.
In support of these activities, we undertake a variety of research projects through the year. We publish briefing material to inform people about our work, as well as data on the public finances. We provide a regular briefing on the monthly public finances.
We published our first annual report and accounts on 19 June 2012. In the Annual report we outline our achievements over the past year and set out information about our accounts and how we work. It also contains an assessment of our performance of our main duties by our non-executive members.
We answer parliamentary questions on our forecasts and give evidence to parliamentary committees. BRC members and OBR staff also give talks and presentations at external events.
Robert Chote’s presentation on independent fiscal councils at the Institute of International Finance’s Annual Membership Meeting in Washington DC on Sunday 25 September 2011.