Kitty Ussher is a London-based economist with an extensive background in UK public policy. She is the Managing Director of the independent economic and market research company, Tooley Street Research as well as holding a number of other advisory and non-executive positions.
Ussher was elected as a Labour MP for Burnley in 2005 serving until the 2010 election. During this time she served first on the Public Accounts Committee, then as Parliamentary Private Secretary to Margaret Hodge at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and then held junior ministerial positions as Economic Secretary to the Treasury (2007-08) and Parliamentary Undersecretary of State at the Department for Work and Pensions (2008-09) before briefly returning to the Treasury as Exchequer Secretary (2009). Her time in parliament was characterised by Martin Waller, the financial journalist, as “one of the brightest denizens of the lower depths of the Brown administration”.
During her time at the Treasury, Ussher oversaw a review of policy in relation to credit unions and co-operatives, giving them more freedom to grow commercially. She was also the lead minister for the 2009 Dormant Bank and Building Society Accounts Act which allows for the redistribution of unclaimed bank assets. She was also instrumental to the Savings Gateway Act of 2009 which provided financial incentives for people on low incomes to get into the savings habit, but was abolished by the incoming Coalition government in 2010.
Since leaving parliament, Ussher has focussed on the contribution that economic research can make to public policy, first as the Director of Demos (2010-11) and then independently through associate arrangements with other think tanks, notably the Centre for London, Social Market Foundation and Smith Institute as well as under the Tooley Street Research brand.
Her recent focus has mainly been on low pay: her pamphlet estimating a rate of a minimum wage for London led to the policy being adopted by a number of the London mayoral candidates for the 2016 election. Working with Ashwin Kumar and Monique Rotik in a large-scale project for John Lewis Partnership and the CIPD she helped identify the lack of part time career paths as a major structural impediment for those – particularly women – on low pay. Other research interests include analysis of the distribution of wealth using the Office of National Statistics Wealth and Assets Survey, policy towards entrepreneurship and self-employment, and financial services policy.
She contributed to the debate around Labour’s record on the economy with a chapter in the Political Quarterly edition of 2010 entitled Reasssessing New Labour, and a Demos pamphlet in 2011 entitled “City limits, the progressive case for financial services reform” which argued that the correct response to the financial crisis is to understand better its root causes rather than to engage in banker bashing as an aim in itself. She has been a strong advocate of the ability of the Labour party to use the levers of government to achieve radical empowering change for individuals in a way that strengthens, rather than weakens, the economic position of the country as a whole.
In her early career she worked as a macroeconomic forecaster at the Economist Intelligence Unit, chief economist on the Britain in Europe campaign and Special Adviser to Patricia Hewitt at the Department for Trade and Industry. From 1998 to 2002 she served as a Labour Councillor in the London Borough of Lambeth.
Ussher also holds the following positions:
- Member, Financial Services Consumer Panel
- Chief Economic Advisor, Portland Communications
- Member, Independent Economists’ Panel, TheCityUK
- Member, Economic Advisory Panel, British Chambers of Commerce.
She holds an undergraduate degree in Politics and Economics at Balliol College Oxford and an MSc in Economics from Birkbeck College London. She is also – very slowly – studying modules on statistics and data analysis through the Open University.
She is a regular contributor to BBC Radio 4 and Newsnight.