UK Treasury’s Sir Nicholas Macpherson to leave civil service

By on 05/01/2016 | Updated on 24/09/2020
Lord Macpherson, former permanent secretary at the UK HM Treasury, speaking at the Global Government Finance Summit 2015

Sir Nicholas Macpherson, the most senior civil servant leading the UK Treasury, is leaving the British government.

Macpherson, who has been in his current role for more than ten years making him the longest-serving permanent secretary in Whitehall, is stepping down at the end of March.

The Treasury has said the recruitment process for his successor would be announced in due course and that it aims to have filled the post by April 1.

In an exclusive interview with Global Government Forum last summer, Macpherson gave some clues about what kind of tasks his successor will face.

He said that the Treasury must “become a more open institution which people can join, leave and come back to” with more opportunities for secondments between the Treasury and the financial services industry in both directions.

He also warned in the interview that the department should ensure its own restrictions on civil service pay don’t mean it “falls behind other departments” when it comes to attracting talented people.

He added: “There’s been a slight tendency for the Treasury to be even more hair-shirted when it comes to pay than other government departments. I think we need to put that right.”

In a statement released yesterday, Macpherson said that “after 31 years in the department, and having worked on 33 budgets and 20 spending reviews, it is time to do something else while I still can.”

While he said that “it has been a privilege to lead the Treasury through an extraordinary period,” he added that “with the fiscal strategy for this Parliament set and the economic recovery well established, now is the right time to stand aside and for someone else to guide the Treasury through the challenges ahead.”

“I pay tribute to the remarkable energy, creativity, resilience and decency of the Treasury ministers and officials I have worked with,” Macpherson said.

Macpherson first became a civil servant in 1985, when he joined the Treasury.

He held various roles at the department over the last three decades: He negotiated the Economic and Monetary Union component of the Maastricht Treaty and the UK’s opt out, before working as principal private secretary to the Chancellor of the Exchequer from 1993 to 1997 and oversaw the transition from the Chancellorship of Kenneth Clarke to that of Gordon Brown.

He worked as director of welfare reform fro 1998 to 2001, where he led on reforms to the tax and benefit system, and from 2001 to 2004 Macpherson headed up the Public Services Directorate, where he managed the 2000 and 2002 spending reviews.

He was managing director of the Budget and Public Finance Directorate, where he oversaw the strengthening of the Treasury’s strategic tax policy function, before being appointed permanent secretary in August 2005.

Macpherson is also a visiting Professor at King’s College London, and chairs the Policy Committee of the Centre for Economic Performance at the London School of Economics.


See also: our exclusive interview with Sir Nicholas Macpherson

About Winnie Agbonlahor

Winnie is news editor of Global Government Forum. She previously reported for Civil Service World - the trade magazine for senior UK government officials. Originally from Germany, Winnie first came to the UK in 2006 to study a BA in Journalism & Russian at the University of Sheffield. She is bilingual in English and German, and, after spending an academic year abroad in Russia and reporting for the Moscow Times, Winnie also speaks Russian fluently.

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