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Officials warned over accuracy after Jeremy Hunt tweet on public debt

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The official statistics watchdog has reprimanded the chancellor, Jeremy Hunt, after he claimed public debt levels would fall in the coming years, when in fact they are simply forecast to rise less steeply than previously expected.The head of the UK Statistics Authority (UKSA), Sir Robert Chote, said the watchdog’s regulatory arm had spoken to Treasury officials to warn them about accuracy after a complaint by the Labour MP Dame Angela Eagle over a tweet the chancellor sent on 25 April.Saying the government had “made progress” on the public finances, Hunt wrote: “By 2027-28, headline debt levels are reduced by £53.7billion.”Eagle, a former Treasury minister who sits on the Treasury committee, wrote to Chote, noting that the Office for Budget Responsibility forecasts indicate that public debt will rise between now and 2027-28, including a £90bn increase from 2026-27 alone.She said Hunt appeared to be referring to a fall in the OBR’s current projection for headline debt in 2027-28 compared with the same forecast in last year’s autumn statement.

Eagle wrote: “I am concerned that government ministers are using misleading statistics publicly regarding the economy, and believe it is critical that figures used are accurate.”In a reply, Chote said Treasury officials had confirmed this was what the tweet referred to: a reduction in the size of the forecast increase of debt, not a fall in the debt itself.“As you suggest, some readers of the tweet may have assumed that the chancellor was referring to the forecast change in public sector net debt between the last full financial year and 2027-28,” he wrote.“Greater clarity and context would have avoided this confusion.

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