Happy New Year! We hope you had a well earned rest over the holidays, and some time to relax and recharge ready for what is likely to be another challenging year for the country and the Civil Service.
As we are now formally in our roles as Head of the Civil Service and Cabinet Secretary, we wanted to write to introduce ourselves and outline our emerging priorities for the year ahead.
A key priority for both of us will be to take forward much of the great work set up by Sir Gus O’Donnell. We want to champion the Civil Service and what it stands for – celebrating successes, highlighting best practice, stimulating pride and trust in the Civil Service, and defending civil servants from unjustified or ill-informed criticism. At the same time we are also keen to listen to the concerns and issues of civil servants, looking to address barriers of productivity and capability, at a time when all parts of the public sector are trying to manage with much tighter budgets.
The Civil Service has considerable strengths and strong values. We are both hugely proud to lead an organisation with such an immutable and tangible sense of its values, such enviable strengths and such a critical role in the success of the country. In recent years those strengths have been built on in a number of important ways. Increasing diversity, developing the Top 200 and strengthening professional skills across government have all been very positive developments that can and should go further. And there have been significant achievements over the last 18 months that we can all be proud of – successful transition and rapid adjustment to working in a Coalition Government, progress in implementing the Programme for Government, and delivering against an ambitious fiscal plan.
So we start from a strong position most organisations would love to be in. But change is needed, not least because the world is changing. We need to prove that we are as good at implementation as we are at policy development – there are some major reforms to deliver this year, including to the NHS, welfare and immigration. We, together with ministers and Parliament, need to take a sensible approach to risks and failures, which supports the development and effective delivery of creative innovative policies, and the right deployment of resources rather than encouraging excess caution or inaction. And the economic challenges remain severe – with public spending needing to reduce by £80bn over the next four years. Strong corporate leadership will be essential if we are to achieve the changes needed, and for us to maintain our reputation of being the best Civil Service the world.
“I am really looking forward to tackling the challenges this new leadership role will bring. I see the job as fundamentally being about two things: providing visible leadership and championing change. It’s an important time for the Civil Service and my aim is to celebrate and promote our strengths, whilst progressing the vital changes needed by reforming and modernising the Civil Service.”
“I am delighted to start the New Year in my role as Cabinet Secretary and look forward to the challenges it will bring. My main aim will be to support the Government in its key priorities, leading delivery with dynamism and energy, and ensuring that ministers can continue to look to the Civil Service for strong, objective, evidence-based and impartial policy advice on the issues that the country is facing.”
In January we will be driving forward much of the work that came out of the November Top 200 Event. We are meeting with Permanent Secretaries and the Minister for the Cabinet Office to discuss and agree overall reform priorities and a new governance framework. We will then be working towards publishing an overall plan for Civil Service change and how this will be delivered, for publication in the Spring.
We look forward to meeting many of you over the coming months. We know that many of you, like us, joined the Civil Service because you were interested in, and committed to the work you do. We want to work with you to keep it that way.
In the meantime you can find out more about us, our roles and responsibilities and what we are doing at www.civilservice.gov.uk
Sir Bob Kerslake, Head of the Civil Service, & Sir Jeremy Heywood, Cabinet Secretary