Rishi Sunak orders officials to publish economic cost of lockdown
Rishi Sunak orders officials to publish economic cost of lockdown alongside daily Covid bulletins to ‘contextualise’ death and infection figures
- Rishi Sunak has asked civil servants to find ways of illustrating ‘other trade offs’
- Treasury’s own economic modelling could be shown alongside Covid statistics
- Sources said this could include showing ‘hit on GDP’ of taking a region from Tier 2 into Tier 3 or introducing a national ‘circuit-breaker’ lockdown, for example
Treasury officials have been tasked with publishing the economic cost of lockdown alongside daily Covid data, The Mail on Sunday can reveal.
Rishi Sunak has asked civil servants to find ways to illustrate the ‘other trade-offs’ amid concerns over the deaths and harm caused by coronavirus restrictions.
The Treasury’s own economic modelling, currently available only to Ministers, could be presented alongside the Covid statistics seen by the public.
Officials have been examining the best way to use economic data to ‘contextualise’ the death and infection figures with which the public has been presented since the start of the pandemic.
This could involve publishing the Treasury’s internal calculations, or the economic data from the Office for Budget Responsibility, the independent forecaster.
Rishi Sunak has asked civil servants to find ways to illustrate the ‘other trade-offs’ amid concerns over the deaths and harm caused by coronavirus restrictions
Sources said this could include illustrating the ‘hit on GDP’ of taking a region from Tier 2 into Tier 3 or introducing a national ‘circuit-breaker’ lockdown, for example.
This month, the Treasury’s chief economic adviser Clare Lombardelli presented modelling on the ruinous effect of a second national lockdown to Ministers. The data reportedly played a key role in pushing back against calls for a ‘circuit-breaker’ – a measure backed by Health Secretary Matt Hancock.
Senior Conservatives welcomed the Chancellor’s initiative. Sir Bernard Jenkin, the MP who chairs the Commons Liaison Committee, said: ‘The Government must be looking at both Covid and economic statistics. Publishing both to explain the basis of decisions would instil public confidence.
‘It would lead to better public understanding and so better compliance with the restrictions and bring much needed balance to the debate about how we should respond.’
Baroness Altmann, the Conservative peer and former Pensions Minister, said: ‘It’s not about Covid deaths versus the economy. It is about deaths versus deaths.’
A source close to Mr Sunak said: ‘We have spent more than £200 billion already over the past months. We have to be sensible.
‘The view, not just in the Treasury but across Government, is that it is our responsibility to make clear to people, for them to grasp what the balancing act and the trade-offs that the Cabinet, the Prime Minister and the Chancellor are having to make every day.’
Another ally of Mr Sunak said: ‘The average age for Covid deaths is higher than average life expectancy’ while a Tory MP said: ‘We are trashing the lives of young people to save 80-year-olds.’
The average age of those who have died from coronavirus in England and Wales since the start of the pandemic is 82.4, analysis by University of Oxford researchers using Office for National Statistics (ONS) data has shown.
Life expectancy in the UK is 79.4 years for men and 83.1 for women, according to the latest ONS report. Last week, the cost of coronavirus spiralled even further after the Chancellor announced £13 billion of additional measures to protect businesses and jobs through the new restrictions.
Carl Emmerson, Deputy Director of the Institute for Fiscal Studies, said: ‘As of mid-July, official costings suggested the total direct cost of the Chancellor’s interventions totalled £192 billion.
In less than one month the Chancellor has announced his Winter Economic Plan and two further extensions.
‘Despite these being substantial packages, none has been accompanied by estimates of how many people are expected to benefit.’
Meanwhile, Boris Johnson has been warned not to let the costs of an expected Covid inquiry escalate after Freedom of Information data showed public inquiry costs have skyrocketed to more than £300 million over the past five years.
The Home Office alone has spent £193 million since 2015, analysis by the TaxPayers’ Alliance has shown. The inquiry into child sex abuse has cost £143 million to date and the Grenfell inquiry £40 million.
The Alliance’s Chief executive, John O’Connell, said: ‘All too often politicians dodge the blame and kick difficult decisions into the long grass with costly inquiries – we can’t allow this to happen with coronavirus.’
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