Sir Derek Jones' successor as Welsh perm sec faces formidable Brexit in-tray

Written by Jonathan Owen on 22 August 2016 in News

Advertisement for the role of Wales' top official goes live – as first minister Carwyn Jones emphasises that Brexit means "fundamental change for Wales and the UK as a whole"

Sir Derek Jones is stepping down as permanent secretary to the Welsh Government – and his successor could be plunged into post-Brexit discussions over the future of Wales, and possible separation from England.

Sir Derek will leave his post in the coming months, four years after being appointed in 2012. In an email to thousands of civil servants in Wales sent last Friday, he stated: “I said just before the start of this Assembly term that I intended to step down towards the end of this year. 

"Before I sign off this week’s bulletin, I wanted to let you know that the advertisement for the role of permanent secretary at the Welsh government has now gone live.”

Interview: Sir Peter Housden, former Scottish government permanent secretary: "People tire of gladiatorial ministers"
Sir Derek Jones: the Welsh government's top official on devolution and a year of "intense pressure and scrutiny"

Cabinet secretary Jeremy Heywood has described the £160,000 a year job as head of the Welsh government as a “pivotal role.”

It will involve “providing direct support to the first minister", Carwyn Jones, and his ministerial team,” comments Heywood, in the 16 page candidate brief and job description.

Yet the jobs challenges could be far more wide-ranging in the wake of Britain's vote to leave the European Union, according to Carwyn Jones.

Hinting at greater separation between Wales and England, he tells candidates: “The EU referendum result implies fundamental change for Wales and the UK as a whole. The Welsh government has a basket of vital interests currently connected to the EU which will need to be protected and delivered differently in the future.”

He adds: “Leaving the EU implies a very different sort of relationship between the Welsh government and the UK government as we each learn to conduct our business in a radically changed context.”

Welsh ministers will be faced with “new choices about fiscal policy,” in the coming years, according to the candidate brief.

The next permanent secretary will be a key player in overseeing fundamental changes to “budgetary procedures” such as the creation of a Welsh Revenue Authority to collect taxes in Wales.

The brief states: “Following the EU referendum, the Welsh government faces major challenges dealing with the implications of withdrawal from the EU. We need to be fully involved in the UK negotiations with the EU, as well as managing our own negotiations with the UK about what happens afterwards.”

The closing date for the five-year fixed term appointment is 11 September, with final interviews, which will include a session with a psychologist to assess “leadership capability and personal resilience” due to be completed by October.

In addition to being an expert strategist, strong leader, and commercially aware, the next permanent secretary will need to be willing to learn to speak Welsh, according to the person specification for the role.

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