DCMS perm sec Dame Sue Owen on commemorating World War One and changing secretary of state twice in 2018
With the end of 2018 fast approaching, we asked the UK's top civil servants to look back at the year, outline their goals for 2019 – and tell us who would turn on their town’s Christmas lights.
Sticky situation: Hockey Women’s World Cup Photo PA
What was your highlight of 2018?
Big events like the Great Exhibition of the North, the Hockey Women’s World Cup, and the programme of moving World War One centenary commemorations are some of our popular highlights. And in only our second year since adding “Digital” to our name, we’ve announced the Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation, stimulated millions of pounds of investment in the rollout of fibre optic cable, and passed tough new laws against online ticket touts.
What was the hardest part of being a leader in 2018?
In DCMS all four of our Commons ministers posts changed hands, twice for secretary of state! But we’re good at leading through that kind of change in DCMS. For me, the hardest thing in 2018 was losing Jeremy Heywood, with whom I worked on and off for over 30 years.
What are the main challenges facing your department in the coming year?
Every department faces challenges associated with EU exit, and with our sectors making up 25% of UK businesses, DCMS is no exception. This ranges from obvious issues such as continuing to grow our tourism sector, to more subtle ones such as ensuring the free flow of data between European and British businesses. We’ll also be meeting the challenge of legislating against some of the more insidious online harms, such as cyberbullying and abuse.
Which celebrity or historical figure would you choose to turn on the Christmas lights in your town, and why?
Jordan Pickford, Everton and England goalie – because my dad’s ashes are under the pitch at Goodison Park.
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