Augustine Thomas O'Donnell, Baron O'Donnell, GCB, FBA, FAcSS (born 1 October 1952) is a former British senior civil servant and economist, who between 2005 and 2011 (under three Prime Ministers) served as the Cabinet Secretary, the highest official in the British Civil Service.
O'Donnell announced after the 2010 General Election that he would step down within that Parliament and did so at the end of 2011. His post was then split into three positions: he was succeeded as Cabinet Secretary by Sir Jeremy Heywood, as Head of the Home Civil Service by Sir Bob Kerslake (in a part-time role), and as Permanent Secretary in the Cabinet Office by Ian Watmore. Whilst Cabinet Secretary, O'Donnell was regularly referred to within the Civil Service, and subsequently in the popular press, as GOD; this was mainly because of his initials. In 2012, O'Donnell joined Frontier Economics as a Senior Advisor.
The Lord O'Donnell
At the Financial Times summer party in 2017
1 September 2005 – 31 December 2011
|Prime Minister||Tony Blair|
|Preceded by||Andrew Turnbull|
|Succeeded by||Sir Jeremy Heywood|
|Head of the Home Civil Service|
1 September 2005 – 31 December 2011
|Prime Minister||Tony Blair|
|Preceded by||Andrew Turnbull|
|Succeeded by||Sir Bob Kerslake|
|Cabinet Office Permanent Secretary|
1 September 2005 – 31 December 2011
|Preceded by||Andrew Turnbull|
|Succeeded by||Ian Watmore|
|Permanent Secretary for the Treasury|
26 June 2002 – 2 August 2005
|Preceded by||Andrew Turnbull|
|Succeeded by||Nicholas Macpherson|
|Born||1 October 1952|
South London, United Kingdom
|Alma mater||University of Warwick|
Nuffield College, Oxford
University of Glasgow
O'Donnell was born and raised in south London. Educated at Salesian College, Battersea, he read Economics at the University of Warwick before taking his MPhil degree at Nuffield College, Oxford. He gained a PhD degree from and was a lecturer at the University of Glasgow in the Political Economy Department from 1975 until 1979, when he joined the Treasury as an economist.
In 1985, he joined the British Embassy in Washington, serving as the First Secretary of the Economics division for four years. In 1989 O'Donnell became press secretary for the Chancellor of the Exchequer before transferring next door to serve as press secretary to the Prime Minister from 1990 to 1994.
From 1997 to 1998, O'Donnell was the United Kingdom's Executive Director to both the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, again in Washington, before returning to HM Treasury to serve as both Director of Macroeconomic Policy and Prospects and also Head of the Government Economics Service, with overall responsibility for the professional economists in Her Majesty's Government. A year later, in 1999, he was appointed Managing Director of Macroeconomic Policy and International Finance, with responsibility for Fiscal Policy, International Development, and European Union Economic and Monetary Union.
In 2002, O'Donnell took over from Sir Andrew Turnbull as Permanent Secretary of the Treasury when Sir Andrew became Cabinet Secretary. Three years later, on 15 June 2005, it was announced that O'Donnell would again replace Turnbull, this time as Cabinet Secretary, on the latter's retirement at the end of that summer. He took up office in September 2005.
During his time as Cabinet Secretary, his authority was seen as absolute, giving rise to the affectionate nickname "GOD" based on his initials as they appeared in Government papers.
The annual remuneration for this position was £235,000.
In his role as Cabinet Secretary, O'Donnell was responsible for overseeing the review of Christopher Meyer's controversial memoirs, DC Confidential, in November 2005. The previous month he had told the Public Administration Select Committee that it was "wrong" for civil servants to publish personal memoirs.
In January 2011, it emerged that O'Donnell had decided not to publish correspondence sent between Tony Blair and George W Bush prior to the 2003 invasion. The papers were, however, provided to the Iraq Inquiry itself. His reasoning is explained in several documents between himself and Sir John Chilcot.
On 11 October 2011, it was announced by Downing Street that O'Donnell was to retire at the end of the year. His successor was announced as the Downing Street Permanent Secretary Jeremy Heywood. However the roles of Cabinet Secretary, Head of the Civil Service and Permanent Secretary at the Cabinet Office were split.
On 22 December 2011, O'Donnell said that the future of the Union is one of several "enormous challenges" facing the political establishment in the coming years. The admission from such a senior non-political figure that the break-up of Britain is now a real possibility is likely to push the issue up the political agenda. "Over the next few years there will be enormous challenges, such as whether to keep our kingdom united," he warns officials and politicians.
He is also a trustee of the Economist Group.
In 2015, he was co-author of the report that launched the Global Apollo Programme, which calls for developed nations to commit to spending 0.02% of their GDP for 10 years, to fund co-ordinated research to make carbon-free baseload electricity less costly than electricity from coal by 2025.
On 10 January 2012, O'Donnell was created a life peer as Baron O'Donnell, of Clapham in the London Borough of Wandsworth, and was introduced in the House of Lords, where he sits as a crossbencher, on 12 January 2012. In his first speech in the House of Lords, in June 2012, Lord O'Donnell warned that too many Treasury officials were leaving and that staff are underpaid, and that the Treasury may be struggling to address the problems caused by the ongoing global financial turmoil.
O'Donnell supports a liberal immigration policy, saying in 2011 that "[w]hen I was at the Treasury I argued for the most open door possible to immigration … I think it’s my job to maximise global welfare not national welfare." O'Donnell has repeated this view in a milder form in newspaper articles, and thinks that his views about immigration are in the interests of the average British person, notwithstanding some short-term losers.
In 2017 he warned that "there was no way Brexit would happen smoothly."
O'Donnell is a keen sportsman, having played football for the University of Warwick First XI and for Oxford, earning two Blues in 1973/4 and 1974/5. While Permanent Secretary at the Treasury he won a football medal at the annual Civil Service Sports Day—the first Permanent Secretary to do so. O'Donnell has played for the Mandarins Cricket Club for many years, the third Cabinet Secretary to do so (the others being Sir Robin Butler and Sir Andrew Turnbull). He is a keen supporter of Manchester United.
O'Donnell was formerly a governor of his alma mater, Salesian College, Battersea.
O'Donnell has received several appointments to the Most Honourable Order of the Bath: he was appointed Companion (CB) in the 1994 New Year Honours, Knight Commander (KCB) in the 2005 Birthday Honours and Knight Grand Cross (GCB) in the 2011 Birthday Honours. The Parliamentary Public Administration Committee cited the example of at least one of O'Donnell's appointments [his knighthood] to the Order as automatic honours granted due to his position and not for exceptional service, although it is not specified if all of his honours were granted solely due to his position or if some were due to exceptional service.
| 10 Downing Street Press Secretary to John Major
| Permanent Secretary for the Treasury
| Cabinet Secretary
Sir Jeremy Heywood
| Head of the Home Civil Service
Sir Bob Kerslake
| Permanent Secretary for the Cabinet Office
Adam Werritty (born 18 July 1978) is a Scottish businessman. Werritty is a friend of the former UK Secretary of State for Defence and ex Secretary of State for International Trade, Liam Fox. He lived for a period in 2002 and 2003 at Fox's London flat and was best man at his wedding in 2005. The two were also business associates who once held joint investments in the healthcare consultancy firm UK Health. Werritty was reportedly an adviser of Fox's and is known to have accompanied him on at least 18 foreign business trips between 2009 and 2011. In 2007, when Fox was shadow Defence Secretary, they both attended a meeting with the Gulf Research Centre. Werritty was also appointed by Fox as the chief executive of the now disbanded conservative Atlanticist think-tank, "The Atlantic Bridge".
Werritty made visits to Fox at the Ministry of Defence (MoD) in Whitehall on 22 occasions in 16 months; Werrity was not security-cleared with the MoD. Additionally, over a 17-month period, ending October 2011, Werritty was present at 40 of Fox's 70 recorded engagements. The uncertain nature of Werritty's relationship with Fox led to an investigation by senior civil servants, initially the MoD's Permanent Secretary, Ursula Brennan and latterly the Cabinet Secretary Sir Gus O'Donnell. Fox claimed that Werrity had never worked for him either in an official or unofficial capacity despite allegations that he was using a source of advice outside the Civil Service, paid for by private funds. Disclosure of increasing amounts of detail of their contact, funding and explanations of their relationship led to Fox's resignation on 14 October 2011 in advance of O'Donnell's report of his investigation.Andrew Turnbull, Baron Turnbull
Andrew Turnbull, Baron Turnbull, (born 21 January 1945) was the head of Her Majesty's Civil Service and Cabinet Secretary between 2002 and 2005 when he was succeeded by Sir Gus O'Donnell. He now sits in the House of Lords as a crossbencher.
He was educated at Enfield Grammar School and Christ's College, Cambridge, where he studied Economics.He serves on the Dulwich College Board of Governors, and has been its chairman since 2009. Since 2006 he has chaired the international development charity, Zambia Orphans Aid UK.Bernard Ingham
Sir Bernard Ingham (born 21 June 1932) is a British journalist and former civil servant, best known as Margaret Thatcher's long-serving chief press secretary while she was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1979 to 1990. He was knighted in Thatcher's 1990 resignation honours list.Bob Kerslake
Robert Walter Kerslake, Baron Kerslake, (born 28 February 1955) is a British senior civil servant. He was the Head of the Home Civil Service, after the retirement of the former holder, the Cabinet Secretary, Sir Gus O'Donnell on 31 December 2011 until September 2014.He continued to be Permanent Secretary at the Department for Communities and Local Government. In December 2014 he was appointed as the Chair of King's College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust to begin in June 2015. He was introduced as a Crossbench life peer in the House of Lords on 17 March 2015.Cabinet Manual
The Cabinet Manual is a government document in the United Kingdom which sets out the main laws, rules and conventions affecting the conduct and operation of the Government of the United Kingdom. It was written by Her Majesty's Civil Service, led by Cabinet Secretary Sir Gus O'Donnell, and was published by the Cabinet Office on 14 December 2010. The Manual gives an overview of the UK's system of government, reflecting the importance of Parliament, Cabinet government and the democratic nature of the UK’s constitutional arrangements by explaining the powers of the Executive, Sovereign, Parliament, international institutions (most notably the European Union), the Crown Dependencies, British Overseas Territories and the devolved administrations in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. The Manual was written as a guide for members of Cabinet, other ministers and civil servants in the execution of government business, but also serves to consolidate many of the previously unwritten constructional conventions through which the British government operates.
The writing of the Manual was originally initiated by Gordon Brown as part of his broader plan to establish a written constitution for the UK. However, in 2011 the House of Lords Constitution Committee stated that the document was "not the first step to a written constitution" as it only describes the existing rules and does not "set existing practice in stone". The Manual does not need to be formally approved by Parliament and can be modified at any time by the Cabinet Secretary.Cabinet Office Permanent Secretary
The Cabinet Office Permanent Secretary is the second-most senior civil servant of the Cabinet Office. It was conventionally joined with the positions of Cabinet Secretary and Head of the Home Civil Service. This triple role was disbanded in January 2012 after Gus O'Donnell retired.
Due to the Cabinet Office having expanded and taken on new responsibilities since the 2010 election, including cutting costs and driving efficiency across government, it is led by a dedicated Permanent Secretary.The current Permanent Secretary of the Cabinet Office is John Manzoni.Cabinet Secretary (United Kingdom)
The Cabinet Secretary is the most senior civil servant in the United Kingdom. They act as the senior policy adviser to the Prime Minister and Cabinet and as the Secretary to the Cabinet, responsible to all Ministers for the running of Cabinet Government. The role is currently occupied by Mark Sedwill, appointed in October 2018; in succession to Jeremy Heywood, 2014 - 2018.Civil Pages
The Civil Pages is a computer system that acts as a private social media site for the UK Civil Service. It was set up by The National Archives on behalf of the Cabinet Office. It debuted shortly after an incident where the head of MI6 was identified in a holiday snap on Facebook, and was somewhat controversial due the state of government finances at the time. The head of the Civil Service, Gus O'Donnell described civil pages as '... the Facebook of the Civil Service ... without the man in the Speedos'. The system is based on Confluence, an enterprise wiki from Atlassian and was developed by Adaptavist.David Blunkett
David Blunkett, Baron Blunkett, (born 6 June 1947) is a British former politician, having represented the Sheffield Brightside and Hillsborough constituency for 28 years through to 7 May 2015 when he stepped down at the general election. Blind since birth, and coming from a poor family in one of Sheffield's most deprived districts, he rose to become Education and Employment Secretary, Home Secretary and Work and Pensions Secretary in Tony Blair's Cabinet following Labour's victory in the 1997 general election.
After the 2001 general election he was promoted to Home Secretary, a position he held until 2004, when he resigned following publicity about his personal life. After the 2005 general election, he was appointed Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, though he resigned from that role later that year following media coverage relating to external business interests in the period when he did not hold a cabinet post. The Cabinet Secretary Gus O'Donnell exonerated him from any wrongdoing in his letter of 25 November 2005.On 20 June 2014, Blunkett announced to his constituency party that he would be standing down from the House of Commons at the next general election in May 2015. The editor of the right-wing The Spectator magazine, Fraser Nelson, commented, "He was never under-briefed, and never showed any sign of his disability ... he was one of Labour's very best MPs – and one of the very few people in parliament whose life I would describe as inspirational." Responding to a question from Blunkett on 11 March 2015, Prime Minister David Cameron said: "As a new backbencher, I will never forget coming to this place in 2001 and, in the light of the appalling terrorist attacks that had taken place across the world, seeing the strong leadership he gave on the importance of keeping our country safe. He is a remarkable politician, a remarkable man."In May 2015 he accepted a professorship in Politics in Practice at the University of Sheffield (in 2014 he was invited to be a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences), and in June 2015 he agreed to become Chairman of the Board of the University of Law. In addition to his other work with charities, he was also chairman of the David Ross Multi Academy Charitable Trust from June 2015 to January 2017. He is currently the President of the Association for Citizenship Teaching (ACT).
In August 2015 he was awarded a peerage in the dissolution honours lists. He was created Baron Blunkett, of Brightside and Hillsborough in the City of Sheffield on 28 September 2015.Downing Street Press Secretary
The Downing Street Press Secretary is an advisor to the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom on news media and how to manage the image of the British government to the press. The position is part of the Prime Minister's Office and involves using information on what is happening in the UK and around the world, to decide on how the Prime Minister should present his or her reaction to the media. The incumbent also advises on how to handle news stories and other information which could affect the current Prime Minister or the Ministry.
The current Press Secretary is Rob Oxley, following Boris Johnson's appointment as Prime Minister on 24 July 2019.Frontier Economics
Frontier Economics (Frontier) is a microeconomics consultancy providing economics advice to public and private sector clients on matters of competition policy, public policy, regulation, business strategy and behavioural economics. The Frontier Economics network consists of separate companies based in Europe (Berlin, Brussels, Cologne, Dublin, London, Madrid and Paris) and Australia (Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane) & Singapore.
Frontier Economics Ltd (Europe) has a focus on the following sectors: energy, environment, financial services, health care, media, post, retailing, technology, telecoms, transport and the water industry. Frontier Economics Pty Ltd and Frontier Economics Pte Ltd (Australia & Singapore) have dedicated practice areas covering energy, climate change, water, telecommunications and media, competition and legal, economy-wide modelling and natural resources and environment.
Main competitors are Copenhagen Economics, Cornerstone Research, Emerton, FTI Consulting, NERA, Oxera and Swiss Economics.
Frontier Economics Ltd was ranked among the top 25 European consulting firms to work for in a branche-internal survey by Vault.com in 2017 . Frontier was also ranked among the 30 best places to work in the UK Great Place to Work survey in 2013. This was the fifth time Frontier made the top 50.Government Economic Service
The Government Economic Service (GES) is a professional grouping of public sector economists who work across some 40 departments and agencies of Her Majesty's Government (HMG). The Bank of England is also a corporate member of the GES. The GES Board is chaired by the Head of the GES and consists of government chief economists and directors of analysis. GES was founded in 1964 by Sir Alec Cairncross. The GES recruits economists on behalf of the departments and is the largest recruiter of economists in the UK. It facilitates the movement of GES economists between posts in different departments and also maintains professional standards for recruitment and for existing members. It leads on the development of intellectual capital for cross-departmental issues.
From June 2007 to July 2010, the post of Head of the Government Economic Service (GES) was held jointly by the Managing Director of Macroeconomic and Fiscal Policy in HM Treasury and Chief Economic Adviser to the Treasury, Dave Ramsden, CBE, and Dr Vicky Pryce, Director General of Economics in the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills. Dave Ramsden is now the sole Head of the GES. Tera Allas replaced Vicky Pryce at BIS in December 2010 and was Deputy Head of the Government Economic Service until June 2013. The previous Head of the GES was Sir Nicholas Stern, now Lord Stern of Brentford, who succeeded Sir Gus O'Donnell. Sir Gus went on to become the Head of the Home Civil Service and Cabinet Secretary, and is now Lord O'Donell. Professional support for the GES, and since 2010 also for the Government Social Research profession, is provided by the Government Economic and Social Research Team, located at HM Treasury.
The GES web site www.ges.gov.uk details the different departments within which GES members work and the variety of issues on which they provide economic advice. Most GES jobs are in London, but some posts are located in other parts of the country.
The GES also recruits, on behalf of departments, summer and year-long internships for UK students currently on an economics based course.Ian Watmore
Ian Charles Watmore (born 5 July 1958) is a British management consultant and former senior civil servant under three prime ministers, serving from October 2016 as the First Civil Service Commissioner.Jeremy Heywood
Jeremy John Heywood, Baron Heywood of Whitehall, (31 December 1961 – 4 November 2018) was a British civil servant. Heywood served as Cabinet Secretary from 1 January 2012, and Head of the Home Civil Service from September 2014, until stepping down in October 2018. He had previously served twice as the Principal Private Secretary to the Prime Minister, as well as the Downing Street Chief of Staff and the first and only Downing Street Permanent Secretary. After he was diagnosed with lung cancer, he took a leave of absence from June 2018, and retired on health grounds on 24 October 2018, receiving a life peerage; he died two weeks later on 4 November 2018.Nick Macpherson
Nicholas Ian Macpherson, Baron Macpherson of Earl's Court, (born 14 July 1959) is a former senior British civil servant. He served as the Permanent Secretary to the Treasury from 2005 to 2016.
Macpherson was Permanent Secretary to three Chancellors. He managed the department through the financial and wider economic crisis which began in 2007.
Macpherson was nominated for a crossbench peerage in David Cameron's 2016 resignation Honours, and joined the House of Lords on 4 October 2016.Permanent Secretary to the Treasury
The UK Permanent Secretary to the Treasury is the most senior civil servant at HM Treasury. The post originated as that of Assistant Secretary to the Treasury in 1805; that office was given new duties and renamed in 1867 as a Permanent Secretaryship.
The position is generally regarded as the second most influential in Her Majesty's Civil Service; Andrew Turnbull (Permanent Secretary from 1998 to 2002) and Gus O'Donnell (2002–2005) were Permanent Secretaries to the Treasury who then became Cabinet Secretary, the most influential post.
Previous incumbents have not always maintained the political neutrality expected of civil servants; in 1909 Sir George Murray was involved in lobbying various Crossbench peers in the House of Lords to reject the Chancellor of the Exchequer's proposed budget.Professional Manager
Professional Manager is a magazine published in the United Kingdom.
It is the journal of the Chartered Management Institute. It is published by Think Publishing. In pursuit of its overarching goal to help managers get the best from people, it showcases innovations in management theory and encourages readers to rethink their approaches and challenge received wisdom. Senior managers and leaders are interviewed in its pages. Recent cover stars include Ann Summers chief executive, former cabinet secretary Gus O'Donnell, and charity boss, Cherie Blair. Its Winter 2016 edition featured an image of Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales.Richard Wilson, Baron Wilson of Dinton
Richard Thomas James Wilson, Baron Wilson of Dinton, (born 11 October 1942) is a crossbench member of the British House of Lords and former Cabinet Secretary.The Atlantic Bridge
The Atlantic Bridge Research and Education Scheme was an educational charity founded in 1997 with Margaret Thatcher as its president to promote Atlanticism, an ideology of cooperation between the United Kingdom and the United States regarding political, economic, and defence issues. It was set up by Liam Fox, former Secretary of State for Defence of the United Kingdom. Cabinet ministers Michael Gove, George Osborne and William Hague, and Chris Grayling
have previously sat on its advisory panel, as have American senators Jon Kyl, Lindsey Graham and Joe Lieberman. The organisation's principal staff included Catherine Bray (US Executive Director), Adam Werritty (UK Executive Director) and Kara Watt (Operations Director).It was dissolved in September 2011, following a critical report from the Charity Commission the previous year.
*Also Cabinet Secretary