New CEO should report to PM, says think-tank founder

Written by Winnie Agbonlahor on 21 August 2014 in News

The new chief executive of the civil service will only have “sufficient authority” if he/she reports directly to the prime minister, rather than Cabinet Secretary Sir Jeremy Heywood, John Healey, co-founder of new think-tank GovernUp, has said.

November is the earmarked start date for the new CEO whose line manager will be Heywood, according to the job spec produced by the Cabinet Office last month.

But, speaking in a joint CSW interview with think-tank co-founder CSW Nick Herbert MP (pictured above right), Healey MP (pictured above left) said that “unless they are in a position with sufficient authority”, the new person will struggle to exert enough influence in Whitehall.

Asked what he means by “sufficient authority”, Healey said: “For me, it means reporting directly to the prime minister. It doesn’t mean reporting to some other civil servant.”

Healey said that he was “sceptical” about whether creating a “freshly designated post will make a sufficient difference”, adding that it will be hard to find both “the skills to know how you can make big organisations that are disparate in their functions and structure perform, report and deliver better.”

Herbert, who co-founded GovernUp with Healey 18 months ago to produce a range of radical ideas to reform government, was more optimistic about the new role.

He described the new person, who must, according to the job ad, “demonstrate that he or she has had a successful career in the private sector”, as “a huge opportunity to bring in someone with real commercial acumen which is what Whitehall needs.”

The Financial Times newspaper reported on Monday, 18 August, that Whitehall is struggling to recruit anyone for the new post, “with several business leaders having turned down approaches from head-hunters less than three weeks from the closing date for applications” – 5 September.

The FT quoted a “person familiar with the [recruitment] process” who said that the government has “drawn up a ‘plan B’ to appoint John Manzoni, a former BP senior executive and now the head of the Major Projects Authority, if a suitable candidate does not come forward”.

Candidates who have been approached are, the FT reported, concerned that “you sign up now and then six months later get a Miliband government.”

The Cabinet Office said the search was “only half way through”, adding that it has “had a positive response so far.”

The full interview with Healey and Herbert is available in the August issue or our magazine.

Click here to order a copy and subscribe

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Louise (not verified)

Submitted on 21 August, 2014 - 17:59
Why private sector - seems complete lack of respect for those of us who have dedicated ourselves to a public sector career

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