RSS President Deborah Ashby has called for an important consultation on the future of the Retail Prices Index (RPI) to be postponed in view of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Writing to the chair of the UK Statistics Authority (UKSA), Sir David Norgrove, Deborah argued that current restrictions on public gatherings mean that scheduled consultative meetings on the issue have had to be cancelled - including one on 2 April at the RSS, which Deborah had been due to chair.
Deborah wrote: 'The RPI issue is difficult and there are strong views among statisticians. A consultation relying only on written submissions without the opportunity to debate and challenge will produce a less than satisfactory result [...] The RSS asks the UKSA and the Treasury to extend the consultation until we are again able to hold public meetings.'
Such a delay would appear to create few difficulties, as the proposed changes to the RPI would not come into effect until 2025 at the earliest.
Deborah intervened after consulting with the chair of the RSS National Statistics Advisory Group, Steve Penneck, and her call for a postponement was widely welcomed; the chair of the RPI/CPI User Group, Tony Cox, called it 'excellent news'. The User Group has also requested the consultation's postponement.
At the time of writing (30 March 2020), the UKSA response had yet to be received.