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ONS Response to Statistics Authority Review of the Asset Purchase Facility

The Office for National Statistics welcomes the UK Statistics Authority Review of the Asset Purchase Facility and notes that it finds that the decisions made by ONS were made after diligent and professional consideration by the Public Sector Finances Technical Advisory Group (PSFTAG) committee and senior managers and that they paid close attention to the published guidance and principles, to precedents established in relation to other financial interventions, and to questions of alignment with international practice.

ONS also welcomes the suggestions to improve communications and the governance of the PSFTAG committee. The report confirms that users can continue to use the Public Sector Finance Statistics, as measures both including and excluding the Asset Purchase Facility are already published.

ONS recognises the need for a more fundamental review of the Public Sector Finance Statistics and announced such a review on 22 May 2013, recognising the growing complexity of statistics on the PSF and thus the impact on their usefulness to users. We welcome the Authority’s conclusion that this review should precede further changes to the presentation of PSF. The review will cover:

  • The balance in the bulletin between different measures and how best to present a meaningful narrative to users on changes in public sector debt and borrowing;

  • A review of the methodology underpinning the implementation of the ex-measures, their ongoing usefulness to users and how they fit into an overarching presentation of debt and borrowing;

  • The readability and ease of understanding of these key statistics;

  • How we inform users and provide meaningful information surrounding one-off factors;

  • Increasing the amount of underlying data available to aid analysis of trends in Public Sector Finance Statistics.

  • Whether it would be more appropriate for one organisation to take full responsibility for the Public Sector Finances Statistical Bulletin.

The review will be led by Caron Walker, Director of Collection and Production in ONS, and will involve wide-ranging discussions with users and will report full conclusions in Autumn 2013.

In addition, ONS has been considering how to strengthen the governance of the PSFTAG, and will be announcing strengthened arrangements in the near future.

The ONS decision that the cash flows should be treated as permanent effects of a financial intervention was reached after full and careful consideration of all relevant material. ONS recognises that others may have interpreted the guidance differently, and also that different users have different needs and so continues to publish the figures on both bases. The ONS review outlined above will seek to consider and address all the concerns raised.


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