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Sunak’s Covid-19 package may not be value for money – Treasury economist


Incoming head of the Treasury’s independent tax and spending watchdog, Richard Hughes says Rishi Sunak’s multibillion-pound economic response to Covid-19 lack transparency

Richard Hughes, the economist picked by the chancellor to lead the Office for Budget Responsibility, told MPs on the Commons Treasury committee that taxpayers lacked enough information to know whether the measures outlined by Sunak at last week’s summer statement would be cost effective.

Issuing a warning a week after the chancellor’s summer economic update, he said: “The public don’t get to see what impact the government’s policy package is likely to have on the economy.”

Hughes, a researcher at the Resolution Foundation, who is set to replace Robert Chote as chairman of the OBR in October, said the public had been left with “some kind of puzzle” to decode due to the lack of independent forecasts published alongside Sunak’s announcements.

He said there was a “big question” hanging over how many jobs would be saved by Sunak’s policy to pay £1,000 bonuses to businesses that bring back workers from furlough – the single biggest policy announced by the chancellor last week, at a cost of up to £9.4bn to the public purse.

“There’s a big question about what is going to be the impact of the job retention bonus on employment, for example. Because we don’t have an employment forecast produced by the OBR, we can’t see that. It’s not part of the policy debate we can actually have at the moment,” he said.

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