UK PM Liz Truss picks ‘safe’ new Treasury chief in surprise appointment
- Appointment of James Bowler, who has 20 years experience in the Treasury, was a surprise after reports PM Truss wanted someone new to help end the ‘orthodoxy’
- The removal of his predecessor broke British convention and came soon before a string of unfunded tax cuts that caused turmoil in financial markets
Britain’s government on Monday named an experienced Treasury official as the finance ministry’s new top civil servant, after unsettling investors last month by abruptly ousting his predecessor.
James Bowler will become permanent secretary to the Treasury. He replaces Tom Scholar whose departure soon after Kwasi Kwarteng became finance minister contributed to a drop in confidence among investors since Liz Truss took over as prime minister.
The removal of Scholar broke the British convention that non-partisan officials remain in post after a change of political leadership. It came soon before Kwarteng announced a string of unfunded tax cuts that caused turmoil in financial markets.
Earlier on Monday, Kwarteng brought forward the date for his next fiscal statement to October 31 from November 23, largely in response to financial market disquiet at the lack of official forecasts for growth and borrowing alongside the September 23 event.
Truss said during her campaign to become leader of the governing Conservative Party that she wanted to end the “Treasury orthodoxy” she said was holding back radical reforms.
Bowler, whose most recent job was as the top official at the trade ministry, where Truss was recently minister, has more than 20 years of experience at the Treasury where he oversaw policy areas including the budget, spending and tax policy.
He served as an adviser to two previous finance ministers, Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling, and also later advised Brown and David Cameron when they were prime ministers.
Bowler’s appointment came as a surprise after newspapers last week reported that Truss wanted someone new to the Treasury to take the department’s top job.
But the Financial Times reported on Monday that Truss had changed her mind about appointing an outsider because she wanted to calm financial markets.
In a statement, Kwarteng said Bowler’s track record would “be vital as we drive towards our mission of igniting growth and raising living standards for everyone across the UK”.
Mel Stride, a lawmaker who chairs the Treasury Committee in the lower house of parliament and had criticised Scholar’s departure, welcomed the appointment and said it would help reassure investors.
“What we need at the moment are safe pairs of hands. We need to rely on our solid institutions. We don’t want to be undermining those in any way,” Stride told BBC radio.
“He is a very credible, very capable individual who I think will make a big contribution to reassuring markets.”
The government also announced the appoint of two deputies to Bowler, Cat Little and Beth Russell, both of whom are already senior Treasury officials.