Parliamentary watchdog criticises George Osborne over Northern Powerhouse Partnership role

Pic: Patrick Ferguson

GEORGE OSBORNE has been reprimanded by a parliamentary watchdog on former ministers' appointments after he announced the launch of his new think tank, the Northern Powerhouse Partnership, without consulting it.

The former Chancellor announced he was setting up the Northern Powerhouse Partnership in September, writing in The Sun that the new body will bring together council leaders and businesses to "keep asking questions about what more we can do to help the North succeed and take a greater role in deciding its own future", adding that it will be a "major focus of my political energies".

But the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments "noted with concern" that Osborne only sought its advice on the appointment after the launch.

In a letter to the Tatton MP, chair Baroness Browning said the committee is supposed to be consulted on appointments, paid or unpaid, before they are taken up or announced, and it cannot give retrospective advice on appointments when they have already been made.

She noted that the role is unpaid and both the Treasury and the Department for Communities & Local Government had no concerns about Osborne taking the post.

The committee said it normally imposes restrictions prohibiting the misuse of privileged information obtained while in public office. It also noted that in seeking to promote economic development in the North, the role will involve some dealings with Government.

However, it added, it would "expect Mr Osborne to refrain from making use, directly or indirectly, of privileged access derived from his role as a minister to influence Government policy on behalf of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership".