Cabinet Office creates new EDS role to help Whitehall focus on "disruptive and long-term thinking"

Written by Matt Foster on 22 February 2016 in News
News

Powerful Economic and Domestic Secretariat to get a new deputy director to help departments focus on longer-term trends and the impact of technology

The Cabinet Office is on the hunt for a senior official to focus departmental minds on the "disruptive and long-term thinking" called for in the face of new technology.

The powerful Economic and Domestic Secretariat provides policy advice to the prime minister and the cabinet on the government's key domestic priorities. It also oversees the running of the ten "Implementation Taskforces" launched by David Cameron in the wake of last year's general election to try and better coordinate policy and ensure manifesto promises bear fruit.

EDS is now looking for a candidates to take on a new role at deputy director level, which it says will be particularly focused on the impact of technology on public policy.

According to a newly-posted advertisement for the role, the EDS deputy director will lead the secretariat's Projects team, and will aim to ensure that the "best new thinking from horizon scanning and innovation is incorporated in to government’s policy making".

The role will involve offering advice to ministers on "major trends and developments deriving from horizon scanning and foresight analyses", the ad says, and the new deputy director will also be expected to draw up "realistic and ambitious plans to ensure the UK is taking advantage of innovative thinking and new technology".

A report by MPs on the Public Administration Select Committee, published last year, warned that Whitehall remained too focused on the day-to-day management of problems at the expense of longer-term planning.

PASC specifically urged a strengthening of the Cabinet Office’s "horizon scanning" programme team, which was established in 2014 with a pledge to help the government make better long-term decisions, but which the committee noted had a staff of just five.

“It needs the capacity and the authority to address gaps and duplications and to coordinate a comprehensive and coherent analysis of the risks and challenges facing the whole of government,” the MPs said.

The EDS job ad makes clear that the new deputy director will be expected to help departments focus on those longer-term trends – building a "formal network" of policy director generals "to promote this thinking in departments".

The successful applicant will be expected, it says, to influence "senior leaders across government to ensure that government takes the disruptive and long-term thinking available and feeds it in to policy-makers and those delivering services to drive change and improved, successful delivery".

The new deputy director will be expected to work closely with Cabinet Office minister Oliver Letwin (pictured) to explore how "the use of new technology can reduce regulatory burdens and trigger innovative practice", the Cabinet Office says. Although Letwin tends to play a behind-the-scenes role, he has long been viewed as one of the Conservative party's most influential policy minds.

The role – open for applications until March 4 – has a starting salary of between £63,000 and £117,000, and the deputy director will directly line-manage what the Cabinet Office says is a "high-performing team" of six staff. They will report to the EDS director general Jonathan Slater, who took over the role from Antonia Romeo in October.

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Matt Foster
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Matt Foster is CSW's deputy editor. He tweets as @CSWDepEd

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