‘2022 is about delivering on our promises’ – Alex Chisholm on his priority for the coming year

2020 may have been a year like no other, but 2021 was a chip off the old block and relentless from day one. The Cabinet Office perm sec and civil service COO tells us about 12 more months of dealing with the coronavirus pandemic at the same time as pushing ahead with new challenges
Alex Chisholm. Credit: Cabinet Office

By Civil Service World

15 Dec 2021


What was your highlight of 2021?

This has to be our world-leading vaccine rollout, brilliantly executed by public servants and volunteers across the UK, enabling us to return to a semblance of normal life.

On a more personal note, one of my top priorities since I took up this role has been to use this time to make government work better for people. So I am proud of the Declaration on Government Reform, setting out an ambitious programme of improvement and signed by the PM and the cabinet secretary on behalf of the whole UK government.

I hope it’s not cheeky to add in a third, as I can’t fail to mention the monumental Cop26 summit and the historic agreement between 197 countries to reduce carbon emissions and to help fund adaptation.

How did you tackle the biggest challenges facing your organisation in 2021?

In the Cabinet Office, we always need to be able to flex to respond to the latest priority challenge. And we’ve certainly had to prove ourselves in this regard over the course of the year.

In the spring we mobilised to support elections in the face of Covid. The summer required a huge cross-government effort to undertake the Afghanistan evacuation and subsequent resettlement programme. Come the autumn and the Cabinet Office was standing up a new supply chain unit and a taskforce on illegal immigration across the channel, as well as surging to support the Cop26 team to stage the summit in Glasgow. It has been just great to see colleagues responding so readily and so well to such challenges.

What is your number one priority for 2022?

If 2021 was about designing the reform effort and publishing our plans in the reform declaration, 2022 is about delivering on our promises, so that’s got to be top of the list. We must also support the government’s levelling up agenda wherever we can, whether that’s through moving civil service roles out of London or by improving our digital and data services.

Which historical, mythical or contemporary figure would you most like to join you for a New Year’s Eve celebration?

I’m really enjoying watching Succession at the moment, so I’d love to meet the cast, and maybe even get a sneaky preview of Series 4!


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