'Our interventions saved millions of jobs': Charles Roxburgh shares the Treasury's 2021 highlights

2020 may have been a year like no other, but 2021 was a chip off the old block and relentless from day one. HMT's second perm sec tells us about 12 more months of dealing with Covid while pushing ahead with new challenges
Rock-solid NYE choice: US President Abraham Lincoln immortalised at Mount Rushmore, South Dakota. Photo: concrete&fells/flickr/CC BY 2.0

By Civil Service World

24 Dec 2021


What was your highlight of 2021?

The successful vaccine rollout – led by colleagues in the Department of Health and Social Care and the NHS – offered hope that we were through the worst of the pandemic. 

In the dark days during the early months of 2021, the speed of that rollout was exciting to watch. 

The vaccines have had a huge impact on saving lives and protecting people from hospitalisation, and this allowed the economy to bounce back to life as the restrictions were lifted. 

We are not clear of all the challenges of this pandemic yet, but I certainly hope that the worst is now behind us. 

HM Treasury’s economic interventions – furlough, the loan schemes, the cultural recovery fund and many more – really did save millions of jobs and hundreds of thousands of businesses from failure. 

So professionally, that has been the highlight of 2021 for all of us in HMT. 

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

Like 2020, 2021 was an extremely challenging year for all of us at HMT – as in all of the civil service and across the nation. 

I’m proud of how HMT (and all the civil service) managed to deliver against our ministers’ and the government’s priorities during the year, responding well to the difficulties of working remotely during this crisis. 

Key to our effectiveness has been to maintain a strong sense of teamwork at all levels of HMT, to adhere to the civil service values of always giving impartial and objective advice, and to pay close attention to each others’ physical and mental health and wellbeing. 

What is your number one priority for 2022?

Professionally, our priority remains as it always is – to deliver against the chancellor’s priorities for the economy. It’s an exciting time for the UK economy with opportunities for growth as we emerge from the pandemic, invest in the transition to net zero and re-orientate the UK economy as it charts a new course having left the EU. 

Now that the Spending Review is complete, there will be a huge focus on delivery across the full range of the major economic policy priorities. 

Organisationally, within HMT we have significant change underway to make a success of our new office in Darlington and to deliver on our ambitions on diversity and inclusion. 

We know what we want to do, we just now need to get on and do it. So our number one priority in a word is “delivery”. 

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

I find Abraham Lincoln the most inspiring and fascinating figure in history – but I’m not sure he was that much fun at parties. But I’ll happily skip the festivities for an evening’s discussion of the American civil war with the “Great Emancipator”.

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