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?
It’s difficult to choose – the NAO has produced a number of impactful outputs over the last 12 months. Our reports on Universal Credit, the preparedness of the UK for Brexit, and packaging recycling obligations shone a light on areas where previously there was insufficient credible, independent information. But if I had to narrow it down to one, my highlight would be when I signed-off on our first audit of the British Broadcasting Corporation – the culmination of a tremendous effort by my staff, who proved once again their capability to match the big private audit firms.
What was the hardest part of being a leader in 2018?
Making the right prioritisation decisions internally and working with civil servants to enable them to do the same.
What are the main challenges facing your organisation in the coming year?
In a word, Brexit! By the time this goes to print, the government may have a withdrawal agreement with the EU (or may not!). Many challenges remain, however – not least the agreement of a future trade arrangement – and it is becoming clear that the Brexit process will continue for many years yet. The NAO’s challenge, as ever, will be to provide an independent source of credible and insightful information for the benefit of both decision-makers in parliament and the wider public.
Which celebrity or historical figure would you choose to turn on the Christmas lights in your town, and why?
It would have to be St. Vincent. I’m of course referring to the singer (not the martyr!) and only on the condition that she finishes with a recital from her new album.