Friday, March 14, 2008

When is a scoop not a scoop? When the detail is devilish

Under the headline ‘Small print shows that jobless will top a million’, the Independent reports:

The small print of the Budget has revealed the Treasury is expecting the number of people claiming unemployment benefit to rise from 794,600 to more than a million by the end of 2010.

They’ve certainly done their homework, for this figure doesn’t appear until box C1 on page 183 of the Budget report [PDF].

However, if they’d done ever so slightly more homework, they’d have seen the footnote on the bottom of that page:

This is a cautious assumption based on the average of external forecasts and is not the Treasury’s economic forecast.

And if they’d read the explanation on the previous page of what box C1 actually was about, they’d have known that it was the “key assumptions underlying the fiscal projections” for the next few years, as approved by the National Audit Office. And on the page before that:

The Government uses cautious NAO audited assumptions, including a cautious view of trend growth, to build a safety margin in the public finances against unexpected events.

But these mistakes happen to most of us now and again.

No comments: