Kitty Ussher

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Kitty Ussher
Kitty ussher at election count in burnley 2009.JPG
Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury
In office
9 June 2009 – 17 June 2009
Prime Minister Gordon Brown
Preceded by Angela Eagle
Succeeded by Sarah McCarthy-Fry
Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions
In office
5 October 2008 – 9 June 2009
Prime Minister Gordon Brown
Preceded by James Plaskitt
Succeeded by Helen Goodman
Economic Secretary to the Treasury
In office
29 June 2007 – 5 October 2008
Prime Minister Gordon Brown
Preceded by Ed Balls
Succeeded by Ian Pearson
Member of Parliament
for Burnley
In office
5 May 2005 – 6 May 2010
Preceded by Peter Pike
Succeeded by Gordon Birtwistle
Personal details
Born (1971-03-18) 18 March 1971 (age 43)
Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, England
Nationality British
Political party Labour
Spouse(s) Peter J Colley
Children 1 son, 1 daughter
Alma mater Balliol College, Oxford, Birkbeck, University of London

Katharine Anne "Kitty" Ussher (born 18 March 1971) is a British economist and former Labour Party politician.

After training as an economist, she was elected Member of Parliament (MP) for Burnley from 2005 until 2010, succeeding Peter Pike. She served as a minister in Gordon Brown's Government from 2007–09, mainly at the Treasury but also at the Department for Work and Pensions. She did not stand in the 2010 election instead taking a position as the chief economist of the think tank Demos. She was appointed the Director of Demos in September 2010 and wrote four pamphlets over the next year on aspects of economic and industrial policy including recommendations on how to mitigate the risks from future financial crises and which argued the recession was not caused by the UK's over-dependence on finance.[1][2] On 12 August 2011 she resigned from her position at Demos and switched to a portfolio that includes Chief Economic Adviser for Portland, a member of TheCityUK's Independent Economists' Panel and associate arrangements with a number of London-based think-tanks.[3] In 2014 she established the research company Tooley Street Research where she now works as managing director.[4]


Ussher is the daughter of an Anglo-Irish lawyer father, and headmistress mother whose brother is Peter Bottomley.[5] Consequently, this makes her the niece of the former Conservative cabinet minister, Virginia Bottomley and the granddaughter of the diplomat Sir James Bottomley.

She was educated on a free place at the independent St Paul's Girls' School, and Balliol College, Oxford, where she read PPE, and Birkbeck College, London, where she took a MSc in Economics.


Prior to her election she worked as chief economist for Britain in Europe and as an economist at the Economist Intelligence Unit and the Centre for European Reform. In addition she has worked as secretary to Paul Boateng and as researcher to MPs Martin O'Neill, Kim Howells and Adam Ingram. From 2001 until her selection as a parliamentary candidate in 2004 she was special adviser to Patricia Hewitt in the Department of Trade and Industry. She served as a councillor in the London Borough of Lambeth for Vassall ward from 1998 to 2002 where she chaired the finance and environment scrutiny committees.

After deciding not to seek re-election at the 2010 UK general election, but said that she would return to politics possibly when her children were older. Ussher commenced work for the Demos think tank.[6] She then switched to a portfolio until early 2014 when she helped establish the research company Tooley Street Research

In late 2011, she wrote for Policy Network in favour of In the Black Labour, calling on her party to embrace a language of fiscal responsibility, reforming the market and reforming welfare. She called for balanced budget legislation, rent controls in the private rented sector and looking as to whether wealthy individuals should keep certain universal benefits. Publications include City Limits (Demos, 2011), Risky Business (Demos, 2011), Good Growth (Demos, 2011), London Rising (Centre for London, 2013), and forthcoming Social Market Foundation research on entrepreneurship (2014). She also contributed to a Smith Institute Pamphlet on consumer indebtedness (2013) and research on wealth and assets (2014).

Parliamentary career[edit]

Ussher was elected as the member of Parliament for Burnley at the 2005 general election, having been selected as the Labour candidate for the constituency through an All-Women Shortlist.[7]

As a constituency MP her local campaigning has focused on bringing a university to the town, as well as greater funding for housing renewal projects and a direct train link to Manchester. She has also run a long-running campaign regarding changes to local hospital provision.[8]

From 2005 – 2006 she was a member of the Public Accounts Committee. She was Parliamentary Private Secretary to Margaret Hodge MBE the Minister of State at the Department of Trade and Industry until 29 June 2007.

In Gordon Brown's first reshuffle she was appointed as Economic Secretary to the Treasury, succeeding Ed Balls. One of her first speeches was to London First's "Building the Capital's Capital". She described this position as "her dream job" and told her audience, "we want our decisions to be informed by your expertise. And more than that, we need them to be.".[9]

The timing of her appointment gave her a ringside seat at the credit crunch, party to crucial meetings of the Tripartate Committee of Treasury, FSA and the Bank of England as the authorities dealt with the collapse of Northern Rock, the subsequent financial crisis and its legislative response.

Her time also saw a review of the policy towards co-operatives and credit unions, to give them greater commercial freedom and ability to expand. She also developed the policy leading to the Dormant Bank and Building Society Accounts Act 2009 that redistributes unclaimed banking assets to community use, and the Savings Gateway Act 2009 that provides financial incentives to poorer people to save.

On 5 October 2008 she moved to become Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Department for Work and Pensions taking on broad welfare reform responsibilities previously undertaken by Stephen Timms and James Plaskitt. At the time of the reshuffle, she was described by The Times' city diarist Martin Waller as "one of the brighter denizens of the lower depths of the Brown administration" who had "made herself popular enough in the City".[10]

She became responsible for the government's review of housing benefit policy and a review of the social fund, as well as the Child Support Agency and welfare policy on lone parents.

In December 2008 she was the minister responsible for explaining the Government's position on charging interest on Social Fund loans.[11] She said that the Government was "absolutely not" proposing charging interest on loans from the Social Fund, although a consultation paper was clearly proposing such an idea and included a worked example of interest charges. The idea was comprehensively rejected in the Government's formal response.[12]

Ussher was moved back to HM Treasury in the June 2009 reshuffle, this time becoming Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury, but resigned to prevent embarrassment to the government regarding her tax position ten days later and was replaced by Sarah McCarthy-Fry, the MP for Portsmouth North.

Expenses controversy[edit]

On 10 May 2009 the Sunday Telegraph reported that within a year of being elected, Ussher inquired about claiming for around £20,000 worth of repairs to her London house, which she owned before becoming an MP.[13] As she explained to her constituents in her weekly Burnley Express column of that week, she had moved to Burnley in 2004 purchasing and renovating her own home in the constituency at her own expense; her children were then born in Burnley. The London house had been kept to be used when she was voting in Westminster.[14]

On 17 June 2009, after controversial details of MP's expenses had been released in the press,[13] Ussher resigned, citing a desire to "prevent embarrassment to the government" after allegations that she changed the designation of her "main" home for capital gains tax purposes to reduce her tax bill.[15] In her resignation letter Ussher said that she had done nothing wrong and that her actions were "in line with HM Revenue and Customs guidance and based on the advice of a reputable firm of accountants who in turn were recommended to me by the House of Commons fees office". She also denied any abuse of the allowances system of the House of Commons.[16] Four years later in an article on her blog she said she had nevertheless voluntarily paid the amount in question to HMRC stating that "Public servants should always be at pains to ensure that they are not only compliant with the letter of the law but also with the spirit of it, and I did not focus on that."[17]

At the same time Ussher announced that she would not contest the next election, citing the difficulties in reconciling her parental responsibilities with the working hours of Parliament, stating that this decision had preceded the expenses controversy.[18] Commenting on her resignation, the BBC described her as a "rising star" who had risen quickly through the ranks, despite only being elected in 2005.[19]

On 5 June 2009 the police at Scotland Yard and the Crown Prosecution Service issued a statement stating that the incidents of flipping second homes to avoid paying capital gains tax was not a matter for police investigation.[20] An investigation by Sir Thomas Legg into MPs' claims found that Ussher had breached the retrospectively-applied £11,000 limit for building work in her kitchen and ordered her to repay £1,271.65. Her appeal against the ruling, on the grounds that the limit was not in place at the time the expenses were incurred, was rejected as being outside the scope of the terms of enquiry of Sir Thomas Legg's investigation.[21]

Personal life[edit]

She married accountant Peter J Colley in September 1999 in Hammersmith;[5] they have one daughter (born 7 June 2005)[22] and a son (born 3 January 2008).[23]

Ussher is niece of Sir Peter Bottomley, MP, and (many generations back) of Archbishop James Ussher.


  1. ^ City Limits (March 2011), National Treasure (March 2011, with Imogen Walford), Risky Business (October 2011, with Helen Burrows) and Good Growth (November 2011, with Nick C Jones and John Hawksworth)
  2. ^ "An Offshore Island in the Thames". New Statesman. 10 November 2011. Retrieved 9 September 2012. 
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^ a b "She fought for the euro; now one of Brown's stars will be the City's champion". EMAG/The Times. 9 July 2007. Retrieved 18 June 2009. 
  6. ^ "Planning a life after Westminster". BBC News. 4 May 2010. Retrieved 7 May 2010. 
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^ "[ARCHIVED CONTENT] Speech by the Economic Secretary to the Treasury, Kitty Ussher MP, at London First's 'Building the Capital's Capital' event, Merrill Lynch, London". HM Treasury. Retrieved 8 June 2010. 
  10. ^ Waller, Martin (7 October 2008). "Smalltown America counters the credit crunch". The Times (London). Retrieved 7 May 2010. 
  11. ^ Bahra, Parminder (22 December 2008). "Kitty Ussher and Ministers retreat over interest on loans". The Times (London). Retrieved 7 May 2010. 
  12. ^ "The Social Fund: A new approach". DWP. 1 December 2008. Retrieved 8 June 2010. 
  13. ^ a b "MPs' expenses: minister Kitty Ussher used allowances for £20,000 house make-over". The Daily Telegraph (London). 9 May 2009. Retrieved 7 May 2010. 
  14. ^
  15. ^ "Minister quits over her expenses". BBC News. 18 June 2009. Retrieved 18 June 2008. 
  16. ^ "MPs' expenses: Kitty Ussher's resignation letter". The Daily Telegraph (London). 17 June 2009. Retrieved 7 May 2010. 
  17. ^
  18. ^ "Why I'm putting my family before Parliament | News". Retrieved 8 June 2010. 
  19. ^ "Minister quits over home tax move". BBC News. 17 June 2009. Retrieved 7 May 2010. 
  20. ^ "MPs to escape prosecution over expenses scandal as police say charges are 'highly unlikely'". Daily Mail. 5 June 2009. Retrieved 5 June 2009. 
  21. ^
  22. ^ "Burnley & Pendle Citizen – the local newspaper for our community – Kitty's Baby". 8 June 2005. Retrieved 8 June 2010. 
  23. ^ "Burnley & Pendle Citizen – the local newspaper for our community – Kitty celebrates birth of second child". 4 January 2008. Retrieved 8 June 2010. 

External links[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Peter Pike
Member of Parliament for Burnley
Succeeded by
Gordon Birtwistle
Political offices
Preceded by
Ed Balls
Economic Secretary to the Treasury
Succeeded by
Ian Pearson
Preceded by
James Plaskitt
Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Pensions Reform
Succeeded by
Helen Goodman
Preceded by
Angela Eagle
Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury
Succeeded by
Sarah McCarthy-Fry