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ERNST & YOUNG ITEM CLUB APPOINTS NEW CHIEF ECONOMIST

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<div> <P>The Ernst &amp; Young ITEM Club announced today the appointment of John Gaster as chief economist. Mr Gaster will be responsible for preparing the ITEM Club's independent UK economic forecast using the Treasury Model.</P> <P>He takes over from Paul Droop, who left as chief economist in January to join Bass plc.</P> <P>Mr Gaster has many year's experience as an economist and forecaster, latterly at Oxford Economic Forecasting. He began his career at the Bank of England and was chairman of ITEM's world forecast meetings during the 1980s while he was at the Bankers Trust Company.</P> <P>Mr Gaster comments: "I am delighted to return to the Ernst &amp; Young ITEM Club at a time when a new Government is taking stock of fiscal and monetary policy. Access to the Treasury Model is particularly helpful at such a juncture."</P> <P>On June 25 the Ernst &amp; Young ITEM Club will publish its next economic forecast, examining the implications of the likely contents of Gordon Brown's Budget on July 2.</P> <P>Note to Editors:</P> <P>1. Ernst &amp; Young is the sole sponsor of the Ernst &amp; Young ITEM Club. Ernst &amp; Young is one of the world's leading firms of business and financial advisers with some 72,000 staff in 130 countries.</P> <P>2. Founded in 1977, ITEM is completely independent of any political, academic or commercial bias. Its independence is underpinned by the untied sponsorship of Ernst &amp; Young. The club should be described as the "Ernst &amp; Young ITEM Club" in all media coverage. ITEM stands for Independent Treasury Economic Model.</P> <P>3. The UK model is used by HM Treasury for its policy analysis and biannual Industry Act forecasts for the Budget. This enables ITEM to explore the implications and unpublished assumptions behind Government forecasts and policy measures. Uniquely, ITEM can test whether Government claims are consistent and can assess which forecasts are credible and which are not.</P> <P>4. The Ernst &amp; Young ITEM Club pre-Budget economic forecast will be sent on Monday, June 23 under embargo.</P> <P>Advisory to editors:</P> <P>UNS does not warrant or make any representations regarding the correctness, accuracy or reliability of the contents of the press release. Under no circumstances shall UNS be liable for damages resulting from the use of information contained in the press release. All facts should be independently checked.</P> </div>

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