Insolvency Service chief Sarah Albon on how her team responded to the collapse of Carillion in 2018

Written by Civil Service World on 26 December 2018 in Feature

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.

What was your highlight of 2018?

For me, the highlight of 2018 has to be seeing how well the whole team rose to the challenge of the collapse of Carillion. Whilst it’s never good to see a company fail, seeing my team work so well with the rest of Whitehall and the private sector to ensure the maintenance of vital public services and minimising the number of people made redundant made me really proud.

What was the hardest part of being a leader in 2018?

I know it sounds trite but I work with some absolutely fantastic people, so the leadership role is a real pleasure. That’s not to say that there aren’t some tough decisions though, and trying to juggle between delivering some key change projects to make the organisation more resilient in the future, delivering high quality services to the public and then taking on big cases such as Carillion has required some tough reprioritising and a lot of goodwill from all involved.

What are the main challenges facing your organisation in the coming year?

Like everyone else we’ve been thinking about the possible Brexit outcomes and our readiness for them. In addition, the government has embarked on a programme of improvement in corporate governance and insolvency, in which we have a big part to play. However, every year something unexpected happens, so I assume that when I look back at this time next year it will be none of those things! I’m positive though that we’ll rise to meet whatever challenges come our way – the team has consistently done that.

Which celebrity or historical figure would you choose to turn on the Christmas lights in your town and why?

I think Tenterden starts Christmas perfectly – the junior school parade to the local church and then the mayor switches on the lights. But if I had to pick someone else I’d go for William Caxton. Reputed to have been born in Tenterden, he revolutionised the way we communicate by introducing the printing press to England. I’d love to know what he makes of the internet!

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