Tell it like it is, Darling

David Heald, professor of accountancy at the University of Aberdeen Business
School and former member of the Financial Reporting Advisory Board, has put a
figure on the amount of debt the government will leave off its balance
sheet when it brings in IFRS in 2009.

With “telephone numbers” on the news practically every day, £32bn might not
even have been an “and finally” story ­ but as we near an election the
government’s willingness to level with the public becomes critical.

Only, three weeks ago Alistair Darling told journalists: “I’ve always said
that whatever the subject is, if you explain your case, if you explain why you
are doing things and you level with people, then I think there’s a far better
chance they will say, ‘OK, I see your point of view’.”

The public have a right to see the numbers. The deficit figure Darling sees
should be the same one the rest of us do. Any attempt to perpetuate a system
where this is not the case should be condemned. The government should give the
public the raw figures and let us all make our own minds up.

When it reports to Europe it can use what ever accounting rules are
appropriate. But when it reports to the UK public, it should offer the numbers
that deliver the most realistic view of the economy. And that’s using the latest
international standards: with another £32bn of debt on the books.

Further reading

Darling’s £32bn ruse

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