Sir Alan Budd, the economist and Sidmouth resident, passed away on January 13, 2023 at the age of 85.

Very few Sidmouth residents will have known who Sir Alan was. Sir Alan was knighted in 1997, awarded the Knight Grand Cross in 2013, was a respected macroeconomist in academia, in business and was influential in UK policymaking as an economic advisor to HM Treasury and as a founding member of the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) at the Bank of England. He also helped set up the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) in 2010 as its interim chairman.

I first became aware of Alan Budd when he was working at the Treasury in the 1990s and then afterwards at the National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NIESR). I was in the early stages of a career as a market and industry analyst and I referred to Sir Alan’s economic analysis and forecasts during his time at the NIESR extensively in my own research on the UK automotive industry. I found at the time that many economists were often wrong in their predictions, but Sir Alan was invariably right.

'Pragmatic and relevant economic ideas' 

Economics at that time could be quite ideological, divided between those economists who supported the monetarist theories of Milton Friedman and the Chicago School, and those who supported classical Keynesian economics. Although Sir Alan was an early advocate of monetarism, he was no ideological purist and I found his economics to be more pragmatic and more relevant to the real world of business and economics and his economic analysis did much to influence and form my own economic outlook.

Sir Alan was not shy of being controversial either. Although he had been an early adviser to the Thatcher government, in an interview for the 1992 BBC documentary Pandora’s Box, he expressed a worry that the economic proposals he had put to the government as an advisor were used by the people behind Thatcher, not as a means to reduce inflation, but to deliberately create unemployment as a political policy to reduce the economic strength of the working classes at the time. He did not necessarily believe that this was the case, but he worried that was really what was going on.

He studied economics at the London School of Economics and at Cambridge, and after serving in several academic posts, Alan Budd became senior economic advisor to the Treasury between 1970 and 1974. He returned to academia at the London Business School in 1974 and in 1991 after a spell in the City, he returned to the Treasury but this time as chief economic advisor and head of the Government Economic Service. As he approached retirement, he was appointed Provost of Queen’s College, Oxford in 1999.

Sir Alan's life in Sidmouth

After Oxford, Sir Alan retired to Sidmouth and could often be seen walking around the shops in the high street or along the seafront with his wife Susan. Few in Sidmouth would have known who this modest man was but, despite his background, I found him approachable and friendly on the occasions I met him, a view shared by many students during his time in academia.

Sir Alan was a significant influence, if from a distance, on my own research and my understanding of economics. I was pleasantly surprised to find that he had decided to retire to Sidmouth and fortunate to have been able to speak to him. I shall remember him as a highly respected economist who had been at the helm of many of this country’s top economic institutions at key moments in our post-war economic history and who contributed much to public service.