Improving strategy and accountability - ideas for reforming economic policy-making

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Recently we have had further criticism of the government's purported lack of strategy, albeit wider than economic policy, this time from the Public Accounts Select Committee. In its report on Strategic Thinking in Government published on 17 April, the PASC concludes:

‘We remain concerned at the absence of National Strategy at the heart of government…The strategic aims of the government, informed by public opinion, should drive every policy decision and align them with tax and spending decisions.'

This is a point very similar to our comments before and after the Budget (and on the BBC as recently as yesterday) that the government needs an economic strategy that matches the focus and clarity of its fiscal strategy.

The PASC has a further interesting point of detail regarding the accountability framework that should sit around a more strategy. Their suggestion is that the government should produce an annual National Strategy Report to Parliament, to allow it to be held to account for its performance against its overall strategy.

We made our own suggestion for accountability arrangements in our Budget submission: that the NAO should monitor the performance of the government against its economic strategy in the same way as the OBR monitors the government's fiscal performance against the Fiscal Mandate.

It strikes me that, at least as far as economic strategy goes, these two ideas could be married up. The NAO could produce an annual report, say to coincide with the Budget, which then forms the basis of annual Parliamentary examination of the government against its economic strategy, via the PASC or perhaps the Treasury Select Committee.


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