Not everyone who chairs a commission gets the chance to implement their recommendations.
Jim O’Neill, who last year chaired the City Growth Commission, which produced the RSA thinktank’s Unleashing Metro Growth report, may have that opportunity as commercial secretary to the Treasury.
He was made Lord O’Neill of Gatley last May to take up the role, in which his responsibilities include the Northern Powerhouse, city devolution, infrastructure policy, public private partnerships and the private finance initiative.
His report’s recommendations included a “significant shift” from the centre to city regions in the design, delivery and decision-making of policy and finance, and in fiscal powers, together with formal involvement by cities in Whitehall decision making and wider powers over areas including housing, planning and transport.
The report was one of few to look at only the economic case for devolution, so as commercial secretary Lord O’Neill should be well placed to press its case.
Lord O’Neill has been hugely involved in the negotiations around most Northern Powerhouse deals. All eyes will be on him in 2016 as combined authorities wait to see whether they really will get the flexibilities and freedoms they seek from the Treasury. It remains to be seen to what extent he will be enthusiastic about devolving to non-urban areas.
He worked for Goldman Sachs from 1995 to 2013, for most of the time as chief economist, and holds an honorary chair of economics at the University of Manchester. He sits on the economic advisory board to the investing arm of the World Bank.