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Andy Haldane to leave role as Bank of England chief economist

Richard Partington
·4-min read
<span>Photograph: Sarah Lee/The Guardian</span>
Photograph: Sarah Lee/The Guardian

Andy Haldane, the Bank of England’s chief economist and one of its most prominent public figures, has quit to become chief executive of the Royal Society for Arts thinktank.

One of the UK’s leading economists, Haldane, 53, will step down from Threadneedle Street’s rate-setting monetary policy committee (MPC) after the panel meets in June. He will take up his post at the RSA in September.

In a surprise move after 32 years at the Bank, he will succeed Matthew Taylor at the 267-year-old charitable institution, which operates under royal charter to promote ideas for improving the economy, arts, society and raising living standards.

Haldane’s departure means the Bank will now advertise for a successor to replace him as chief economist, as well as on the nine-member MPC – which sets interest rates at regular intervals and assesses the outlook for growth and jobs.

The Yorkshire-born economist had built a reputation for making attention-grabbing speeches during the Covid pandemic, inserting memorable and easily understood phrases into speeches. A savvy PR operator, he argued last summer that the economy was heading for a “V-shaped” recovery from Covid before the second wave struck, while chided media coverage focusing on negative economic developments as self-fulfilling “Chicken Licken” pessimism.

However, he has also drawn criticism for making boosterish comments that led the Daily Mail to declare on its front page that Haldane was “Mr Boom”.

David Blanchflower, a former member of the MPC, said dissenting voices on the panel were important, but added: “ He was dissenting on the wrong side. He should not have been saying there’s going to be lots of inflation. There isn’t. Most of what he said was based on wild guesses and wishful thinking.

“It’s not what you’d expect from the chief economist, but what you might expect from a commentator on a news programme.”

Haldane’s departure will raise questions over future interest rate decisions and the diversity of opinion on the MPC, after losing one of its most optimistic and outspoken members. Andrew Sentance, another former member of the panel, said: “The MPC is already a pretty bland entity. So losing Andy Haldane is a reduction in the diversity on that committee and the Bank more generally.”

Andrew Bailey, the Bank’s governor, said Haldane had been an “exemplary public servant” over more than three decades, making a major contribution to its work on financial stability and monetary policymaking.

“He will be sorely missed, but I know the RSA will be well served by Andy as chief executive.”

Moving to the thinktank is likely to offer Haldane opportunities to dig deeper into issues outside monetary policy and mainstream economics, in a prominent job with fewer constraints than as a public servant.

Founded in 1754 with a focus on awarding prizes for new inventions, ideas and artworks, and granted a royal charter by Queen Victoria almost a century later, past fellows of the RSA have included figures such as Charles Dickens, Adam Smith and Karl Marx.

Haldane said he had been attracted to leaving the Bank for “another great British institution” after working closely with the RSA during his time at Threadneedle Street.

Related: Andy Haldane: the funnyman central banker who's not great at maths

“For more than 250 years, the RSA has been creating a sense of wonder about the world – and then, through its actions, changing the world by creating new wonders. That task has never been more important than now,” he said.

He had worked closely with the institution to establish a regional network of “citizens panels” for the Bank, an idea put forward by the RSA after the Brexit vote. Formed amid concern over the remoteness of economic policymakers from everyday life, the panels are made up of members of the public and are used to inform rate-setting decisions.

Well-regarded for pushing the economics profession to re-engage with wider society following the 2008 financial crisis, Haldane founded the charity Pro Bono Economics in 2009 with the former cabinet secretary Gus O’Donnell to match economists with charity projects.

He had also been chairman of the independent Industrial Strategy Council until the government watchdog was scrapped by ministers at the end of last month, much to the anger of business leaders.