The commissioners: meet the civil service recruitment watchdogs

Written by Civil Service World on 25 January 2018 in Feature
Feature

The 12 people who promote the Civil Service Code tell us what attracted them to the role, and what they've learnt since joining the Commission

Credit: Flickr/ Angel Abril Ruiz

Next week is the annual Civil Service Commission Open Week, when you can submit your question to the 12-strong team who regulate recruitment into the civil service and hear appeals brought by civil servants under the Civil Service Code.

Anyone can submit a question or a comment via email (info@csc.gov.uk) or on Twitter (@Civ_ServComm), and commissioners will be standing by each day next week to respond. But who are these men and women with a duty to promote the Civil Service Code, and help ensure that recruitment to the civil service is made on merit?

Before Open Week begins, CSW had a chance to submit some questions of our own to find out more about the commissioners, what attracted them to the role, and the most interesting thing they've learnt since joining the Commission.

Ian Watmore

Ian started his career with 24 years in the private sector, culminating as Accenture UK CEO from 2000 to 2004. He then worked for seven years in the civil service, holding three different permanent secretary posts under three prime ministers, in No 10, at the Department of Innovation, Universities and Skills, and at the Cabinet Office. 

What attracted you to the role of a civil service commissioner? 

“For me it was a chance to continue the journey towards a brilliant civil service in a significant role – but part time in nature to complement supporting my wife as a Church of England vicar in Chester Diocese and my professional footballer son at Sunderland.”

What strengths do you bring to the Commission?

“Experience in top leadership roles across the private, public and voluntary sectors. I spent 24 years in the private sector and seven years as permanent secretary in three different roles. I’ve also been a non-executive director in sports, church and charity organisations. I'm committed to diversity and inclusion and ensuring that people of all backgrounds get life chances. I’m proud to have been the first perm sec to employ a modern apprentice in my office. Also, proven independence of political and other pressures.”

Tell us something interesting you've learnt since joining the Civil Service Commission.

“The history of the Commission from 1855 onwards is one of innovation and excellence. I am only the 24th post holder of first civil service commissioner in 163 years. My predecessors raised intellectual and professional standards.”

Natalie Campbell

Natalie has a private sector background specialising in launching and scaling businesses and entrepreneurship more broadly. She is a board member for the Big Lottery Fund UK, and is currently on sabbatical from A Very Good Company, the social innovation company she co-founded.

What attracted you to the role of a civil service commissioner?

“I'm a social entrepreneur and public-body NED so I consider myself a public servant and I've long been intrigued by the work and purpose of the civil service. Equally I've always had an interest in leadership, intrapreneurship (entrepreneurs that operate within organisations) and organisational design for high performance. Having spent the majority of my career working to change commercial businesses to be a force for good, I jumped at the opportunity to apply for the commissioner role knowing I get to mix interests and skills with my passion to change things for the better.”

What strengths do you bring to the Commission?

“The civil service has set itself an ambitious target of being the most inclusive employer by 2020. My entrepreneurial approach to inclusive, diverse leadership and talent development has come in useful already. I'm not afraid to ask 'why' or rock the boat and challenge the status quo in pursuit of doing things differently.”

Tell us something interesting you've learnt since joining the Civil Service Commission.

“Everything! This is such an intellectual buzz for me. Bar the nuts and bolts of recruitment, the process and culture of the civil service is new to me so every meeting is fascinating. I wish more people knew what amazing roles are available.”

Margaret Edwards

Margaret holds several non-executive director and chair roles, including on the Government Internal Audit Agency, the Senior Salaries Review Board and the Civil Service Pension Board. She was previously vice president of McKesson International and has held senior roles in central government including as NHS national director at the Department of Health.

What attracted you to the role of a civil service commissioner?

“I believe that one of the key strengths of our parliamentary system is that ministers and Parliament have access to and are advised, by impartial civil servants who will uphold the values of honesty, integrity and public service. As a commissioner, I hope to support existing civil servants in their roles and ensure the best possible people are recruited for the future.”

What strengths do you bring to the Commission?

“Having worked in the public and private sectors – including as a civil servant – I understand the system from the inside but also have wider experience and can use examples of different approaches to share and challenge the status quo.”

Tell us something interesting you've learnt since joining the Civil Service Commission.

“I have learnt that there is much more that we can (and must do) to successfully attract applications from backgrounds which more fairly reflect the population we serve.”

Kevin Woods

Kevin was director general of health and chief executive of the Ministry of Health in New Zealand. Before that he was the chief executive of NHS Scotland and director general for health in the Scottish Government.

What attracted you to the role of a civil service commissioner?

“My career was in public services and I was attracted to this role after retirement from full time work as it enables me to continue to contribute to the civil service, and also because I believe that an impartial civil service recruited on merit is vitally important to the maintenance of high standards of governance.”

What strengths do you bring to the Commission?

“A diversity of working experience in education, health and government, in England, Scotland and New Zealand.”

Tell us something interesting you've learnt since joining the Civil Service Commission.

“I thought I knew the civil service quite well, but this role has enabled me to see just how varied it is, the range of organisations within it, and the challenges they face.”

June Milligan

June is currently a member of the Court of the University of Glasgow and an equality and human rights commissioner. She has extensive experience as a senior civil servant in the Welsh Government, having served as director general for local government and communities, and has held roles as a diplomat and as head of department at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

What attracted you to the role of a civil service commissioner?

“For years now I’ve been passionate about – and committed to – public service, equality and diversity, and good leadership. These passions remain central to the work I do as a commissioner.”

What strengths do you bring to the Commission?

“I’ve been there and done it! Having held a variety of senior roles within government I know just how demanding – and how messy – the business of government can be. That insight is proving helpful in assessing how attuned candidates really are to the opportunities they apply for.”

Tell us something interesting you've learnt since joining the Civil Service Commission.

“Even though I knew we regulated 73 departments, government agencies and bodies, I hadn’t appreciated how different the work – and the working cultures – would be across those organisations. I’d like to see more candidates taking the risk of making a claim on roles that are not necessarily the obvious next step for them, roles which will simultaneously stretch their capability and extend their experience and influence within government.”

Rosie Glazebrook

Rosie started her career in publishing in the private sector and she now holds several board and NED positions, including at Public Health England, a Research Ethics Committee, NHS Health Research Authority and the Food Standards Agency.

What attracted you to the role of a civil service commissioner?

“An interest in how the civil service can attract the best candidates for the top positions, a role which works across all government departments, and the mix of the regulatory function, complaints handling and influencing best practice.”

What strengths do you bring to the Commission?

“My ability to work with diverse panellists and department stakeholders and chair the recruitment process effectively, my experience in attracting candidates from diverse backgrounds in the private and public sectors, my skills in using data and best practice to support the Civil Service Commission work across government and my background in regulation, ethics and governance.”

Tell us something interesting you've learnt since joining the Civil Service Commission.

“First, what a huge range of interesting roles there are across the civil service that those in other sectors may be unaware of, and which are accessible to those outside the public sector. There is also much more consideration to ways of working in civil service positions than those in outside sectors realise (for example, encouragement for job-share, flexible working, and part-time roles, and location flexibility). Second, what a wide variety of experience fellow commissioners have.”

Jan Cameron

Jan was until recently the group services director for Norman Broadbent plc. She specialised in HR, has also worked for Sainsbury’s and Homebase, and serves as a member of the Employment Tribunal for HM Courts Service.

What attracted you to the role of a civil service commissioner?

“Having worked in HR and recruitment in the private sector for over 30 years, this role offered a fabulous opportunity to apply that experience in the public sector.”

What strengths do you bring to the Commission?

“Good judgement to ensure that the civil service upholds its statutory obligation to ensure all appointments are open, fair and based on merit.  I also have a real interest in the way the Commission performs its role as a regulator and am working as part of the Commission’s board to improve the use of the data we collect and develop a more proactive approach to assist departments comply with the recruitment principles.”

Tell us something interesting you've learnt since joining the Civil Service Commission.

“Every competition I’ve chaired has been interesting in its own way – I get a fascinating insight into the challenges facing the department and work with talented panel members. Candidates are often motivated by factors far broader than salary and status and I’ve been impressed with the genuine commitment they demonstrate to making a difference for the public good.”

Isabel Doverty

Isabel is co-principal of an independent consulting practice specialising in organisational change. She is the former global head of human resources, wholesale banking, at Standard Chartered Bank.

What attracted you to the role of a civil service commissioner?

“After a career spent largely in the private sector I wanted to use my experience in a different way. I'm wary of using the cliché, ‘making a difference', as I believe that I was doing that in my private sector roles as well, but my work as a commissioner has given me the opportunity to contribute on the national stage.”

What strengths do you bring to the Commission?

“Significant experience in recruiting senior leaders, a passion for hiring and developing great candidates and the ability to act as a facilitator and an enabler.”

Tell us something interesting you've learnt since joining the Civil Service Commission.

“I'm constantly surprised and delighted by the variety of the work. Nothing in my previous experience comes close to the responsibility of chairing competitions for the Ministry of Defence’s head of nuclear or the deputy national security adviser!”

Andrew Flanagan

Andrew, a chartered accountant by profession, was appointed chair of the Scottish Police Authority in September 2015. He stood down from his role as chief executive of the NSPCC in March 2013. Prior to this, he was finance director and then chief executive of the Scottish Media Group.

What attracted you to the role of a civil service commissioner?

“I think a high quality, politically impartial civil service is important for creating a strong economy, delivering effective public services and ensuring public security, so I wanted to help. The role also provides a wide perspective on what is happening across government and how it responds to changing demands.”

What strengths do you bring to the Commission?

“I have a private sector background and bring strong financial and commercial experience which plays well to the desire to attract more of these skills into the civil service.”

Tell us something interesting you've learnt since joining the Civil Service Commission.

“The dedication and public service ethos of civil servants is remarkable especially when financial rewards may be higher elsewhere. The scale and complexity across policy development, problem solving and operational development provides wonderful and challenging career opportunities that I did not realise existed when I set out on my career.”

Jane Burgess

Jane spent most of her career in the private sector, and she was formerly partners’ counsellor and a main board director at John Lewis Partnership. She has extensive experience of senior executive recruitment, and is currently a lay member of the House of Commons’ Committee on Standards.

What attracted you to the role of civil service commissioner?

“I was planning the next stage of my career, moving from full-time working to a more portfolio approach. This role attracted me because it would enable me to work in public service and continue to use and develop my people skills and business acumen which have been the backbone of my career.”

What strengths do you bring to the Commission?

“My strengths are experience of being an internal independent director (my last role was in the John Lewis Partnership), and my success has been based on gaining respect, credibility and influence by building relationships on trust, honesty, integrity, objectivity and impartiality.”

Tell us something interesting since joining the Civil Service Commission.

“I have only been part of the team since October and I have learnt two things. Firstly, the civil service is a very large and complex organisation and I am excited about learning much more, and secondly how everyone I have had the privilege to meet has a real sense of being in public service and wanting to improve our society for all.”

Joe Montgomery

Joe has held senior executive roles in the private sector, focusing on property and regeneration, and has had an executive career in both central and local government including as director general at the Department of Communities and Local Government, and director general at the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister.

What attracted you to the role of a civil service commissioner? 

“This is a particularly important time for the country, for government and for the civil service. Joining the Commission felt like a good way to make a positive contribution to one of the country’s key institutions at a time of real change.”

What strengths do you bring to the Commission?

“A decade of top management roles in local government, a decade of DG experience in Whitehall and subsequent board-level roles in the private sector means I bring a range of different experiences of how sound, proportionate regulation can help organisations build a reputation for fairness and excellence.”

Tell us something interesting you've learnt since joining the Civil Service Commission.

“I hadn’t fully appreciated the full range of specialist talent and expertise government departments and agencies need to attract to do their work to the highest standard. I am continually impressed by both the exciting roles on offer and by the candidates who compete for them.”

Sarah Laessig

Sarah has a portfolio career, including roles with the Commonwealth Scholarship Commission, the Association of MBAs and the London Business School’s Masters in Finance programme. She had a 17-year career in banking and her last corporate role was as a managing director of Citigroup.

What attracted you to the role of a civil service commissioner?

“I applied because I was motivated by the opportunity to play an integral part in promoting and preserving the highest standards of conduct in public life and in promoting and upholding the Civil Service values of honesty, integrity, objectivity and impartiality.”

What strengths do you bring to the Commission?

“Leadership experience from working in the private sector and across a number of different countries. I also have a strong commitment to building and promoting diverse teams.”

Tell us something interesting you've learnt since joining the Civil Service Commission.

“I've learnt so many interesting things since joining the Commission that it's difficult to chose just one! Learning about the huge range of different roles available within the Civil Service has been extremely interesting!”

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