What has been your highlight of the last 12 months?
BEIS has been in the front room of everyone in the UK this year. We’re in the middle of delivering energy-price support to every household, every business, every charity, and every public sector organisation in the country. We’ve had to set the work up at an exceptional pace, use levers and techniques we’ve never explored before, and manage money at a scale that dwarfed our existing budgets. It’s been an incredible lift, relying on cross-functional teams from BEIS and beyond (including our partnerships with all the energy suppliers). I’m very, very proud of everyone who has been working on it.
What was your most difficult decision in 2022?
The issue that has kept me awake at night is managing people and resourcing. We were all asked to put in recruitment controls to manage the potential headcount reductions that were proposed as part of CS25, but at the same time the organisation has had some really substantial new things to deliver and a need to grow teams. Managing the urgent requirement for boots on the ground while facing the ask for a path towards a much smaller organisation was tough for people right across BEIS. I am personally extremely pleased that we have a more balanced path ahead in 2023!
“The challenge I think is ensuring we keep our focus clear on helping, retaining, and rewarding our people. It hasn’t been an easy 2022 for the civil service and I want to make sure all our teams are truly well supported in 2023“
What is the biggest challenge facing your organisation in 2023, and how are you preparing to meet that challenge as an organisation?
There’s lots of policy and delivery challenge ahead: whether it’s defining the future of the energy market, refreshing our net-zero pathways, building our science system or helping our new secretary of state lay out his plans for business growth. Those things are hugely important and not at all easy – but none of them really worry me because we have an exceptional team of civil servants, and through their expertise, collaboration and drive I have absolute confidence in our ability to crack through problems. The challenge I think is ensuring we keep our focus clear on helping, retaining, and rewarding our people. It hasn’t been an easy 2022 for the civil service and I want to make sure all our teams are truly well supported in 2023 – not just because it’s the right thing to do but also because we all know ministers’ goals are dependent on having brilliant public servants to deliver.
And personally, as a leader?
I’ve been perm sec for over two years now, and I don’t think we’ve had a “calm” week yet. The risk for all of us is that the long-term to-do list gets neglected in the challenges of the day-to-day fray. I am hopeful that 2023 will permit me to swing the pendulum more towards long-term capability building in all senses. Let’s see!