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Treasury adviser who said northerners should be paid less moves to DHSC

Published on: 28 Jun 2022

An adviser to chancellor Rishi Sunak who has sparked controversy over past comments on economic policy is to move to the Department of Health and Social Care

Tim Leunig announced today that he was going to work “on cancer, mental health and other issues”. 

Health and social care secretary Sajid Javid recently declared a “war on cancer”. Little detail was forthcoming at the time and since, but HSJ has learned that performance targets are being reviewed as part of the work. Last year, Mr Javid also pledged to develop a “10-year plan for mental health”. Again, little detail has emerged since. 

A senior healthcare figure with intimate knowledge of government policy making told HSJ: ”This move is a consequence of the fact that, for the first time since 2014, DHSC seem to think they, and not NHSE, are back in the business of controlling NHS strategy and policy. However, they lack internal capability to do so, hence hires like this.”

Mr Leunig has worked as an economic adviser to the chancellor since August 2019, according to his Linkedin profile. He joined the Treasury under then chancellor Mr Javid. At the time, Buzzfeed reported that he was a “close ally” of Dominic Cummings, having worked as a policy adviser at the Department of Education alongside the PM’s former aide. The news site suggested Mr Leunig may have been installed at Number 11 to keep tabs on the chancellor for No10.

The senior adviser has garnered criticism in the past for suggesting that people in the north of England should accept lower wages in a bid to compete with London. While working for Rishi Sunak, Dr Leunig also said in emails seen by The Mail on Sunday that fisheries and agriculture were not “critically important” to the UK and could be replaced by imports.

Mr Leunig, an associate professor in economic history at London School of Economics, said on twitter: “I will always be proud of the work we did on furlough (with our wonderful colleagues in @HMRCgovuk), on arbitration for commercial rents, and on High Street Rental Auctions.

“I am off to @DHSCgovuk for 6 months, working on cancer, mental health and other issues. These are important issues and I hope to make a difference.”

The DHSC was approached for comment.