Former head of OBR picked as next UK Statistics Authority chair

The planned appointment of Sir Robert Chote will now be scrutinised by the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee
Sir Simon Chote

By Tevye Markson

22 Mar 2022

The former head of the Office for Budget Responsibility is set to become the new UK Statistics Authority chair.

Sir Robert Chote has been picked by the government as its preferred candidate for the role after an open recruitment process, Cabinet Office minister Lord Nicholas True confirmed today.

Before he can be appointed to the role, the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee will scrutinise the proposed choice and give their own recommendation.

The government will consider PACAC’s recommendations before deciding whether to finalise the appointment in consultation with the Queen.

Lord True said Chote “has all the attributes, experience and independence of judgement needed to lead the UKSA Board and the regulation of UK statistics”.

As well as leading the OBR from 2010 to 2020, Chote has held roles as chair of the Institute for Fiscal Studies and as economics editor at the Financial Times – having started his career as a journalist.

He is currently serving part-time as the first chair of the Northern Ireland Fiscal Council, an independent body created in 2021 to bring greater transparency and independent scrutiny to Northern Ireland’s public finances.

He also chairs the external advisory group of the Parliamentary Budget Office in the Republic of Ireland.

Chote studied economics at Queens’ College, Cambridge, where he is now an honorary fellow, journalism at City University in London and public policy at the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University in Washington DC.

He has an honorary doctorate from the University of York and is a visiting professor at King's College London. He was knighted in 2021 for services to fiscal policy and the economy.

Lord True thanked Sir David Norgrove for his work as UK Statistics Authority chair over the last five years. Norgrove has recently criticised the prime minister several times for misleading use of data, including making claims about crime reduction that exclude fraud and computer misuse, and claiming there are more people in employment than there were before the pandemic but ignoring self-employed people.

The UKSA chair is responsible for delivering on the watchdog’s mandate of informing the public about social and economic matters; assisting in the development and evaluation of public policy; regulating quality; and publicly challenging the misuse of statistics.

Created in 2008, UKSA regulates departmental stats and is also responsible for the provision of official statistics through the Office of National Statistics.

In 2019, PACAC called for it to be disbanded and split into two distinct new bodies, saying tension between its core roles had “compromised” the organisation’s ability ensure official data serves the public good.

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