Ex-Treasury minister Jim O'Neill hits out over "disappointing" Autumn Statement

Mark Sands
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The Chancellor Of The Exchequer Delivers His First Autumn Statement
Hammond presented his first Autumn Statement last week in the House of Commons (Source: Getty)

Former Treasury minister and Goldman Sachs banker Lord Jim O'Neill has hit out over last week's Autumn Statement, branding chancellor Philip Hammond's performance as “disappointing”.

Speaking for the first time as a crossbench peer in the House of Lords, O'Neill yesterday lamented a “lack of new or additional initiatives” from Hammond.

O'Neill focused on devolution and the Northern Powerhouse under George Osborne, before quitting shortly after Theresa May came to power.

And he took the chance to slam his former colleagues for failing to make progress on his devolution agenda.

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“It is disappointing to see no further progress in the Autumn Statement following that initiated with Greater Manchester, now commendably followed by Liverpool and the West Midlands,” O'Neill said.

“There remain key urban areas within the northern powerhouse and elsewhere that, in addition to requiring more local ambition, need not to allow our frequently petty national party politics to hold back what is necessary to unleash more of the local bottoms-up-driven vitality that is needed to boost their, and national, productivity.

“This would help all the UK to compete better with the challenges that lie ahead and, of course, to have a much more meaningful impact towards further narrowing inequality.”

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However, O'Neill also admitted that the economy had performed “notably better” since the June Brexit vote than he, and others, had expected.

“As we have been told, there are widespread expectations that this is unlikely to last, and I agree with many of the stated reasons for that, but it is just possible that the economy could continue to surprise,” he said.

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