The Public Administration Select Committee (PASC) has written to national statistician John Pullinger (PDF), highlighting key issues identified in its recent inquiry on statistics for the economy and public finance.
In the letter, PASC welcomed the work currently being undertaken in relation to GDP and inflation and outlined some areas of concern including the quality of financial data, since so many economic indicators looked healthy in the run-up to the 2008 crash and ‘gave little indication of the problems that existed.’ LIBOR and other financial data are suggested by the inquiry as needing improvement, and in relation to this PASC noted the RSS’ recommendation of a closer working relationship between ONS and the Bank of England.
The RSS was one of a number of respondents to express concern over the lack of resourcing given to official statistics, stating: ‘We firmly believe that the ONS is over-stretched at the present time and inadequately resourced.’ PASC acknowledged these concerns, noting that an 'increasing strain on resources' was raised by several contributors to the inquiry.
The letter sets out the challenges faced in official statistics in a contribution from Diane Coyle, a professor of economics at the University of Manchester. These include ‘major changes under way in the structure of the economy’, the need for measures 'other than GDP growth alone', a 'growing demand for better geographically disaggregated data in the UK', and ‘the ONS’s need to adapt to the online world both in its own processes and in its engagement with users'.
PASC also noted that many respondents to the inquiry have found public finances publications ‘difficult for anyone except the most expert user to make use of’, and expressed agreement with the RSS’ comment that ‘efforts to bring clarity into publications are badly needed'.