From AI challenges to the best Christmas biscuits: First civil service commissioner Gisela Stuart's 2023

The commissioner celebrates the swift setting up of the AI summit in reflection on the last year
Nuremberger Lebkuchen. Photo: Adobe Stock

By CSW staff

04 Jan 2024


Tell us three words that sum up your 2023… 

I would say surprising, exciting and reassuring. 

...And why you chose those words   

Surprising. Many things we had taken for granted suddenly had to be questioned again this year, both on the global scene with the Middle East, changes in the North Atlantic Alliance and traditional diplomacy routes – and at home with the resurgence of inflation and issues around the cost of living. These present major challenges for the civil service, alongside the rapid development of artificial intelligence.  

Exciting. When there are new demands on the civil service, the Commission has had to respond appropriately as well as its regulator – for example, the rapid set up of the recent AI summit. It is also exciting that we have been recruiting new independent commissioners, brought in a new regulatory model to assess departments’ recruitment practices and been working on how we embed “external by default” recruitment across government – all in the context of a new King and government reshuffles. 

Reassuring. It’s heartening to see civil servants embracing the challenges and opportunities presented with commitment and enthusiasm, willingness to learn and be part of something bigger. 

What are your organisational and personal priorities for 2024?   

Our priorities include learning how to respond – as a regulator – to machine learning technology being used for recruitment and potentially affecting the way we all work. 

In 2024 we also want to refresh the Commission’s recruitment principles to take into account “external by default” for all senior civil service grades.  

We are also in the process of negotiating a new Framework Agreement with our sponsoring department to clarify our governance arrangements as a statutory body and we’ll also need to start preparing for the changes inevitably associated with a general election. Our newly recruited commissioners will join us at the beginning of the New Year too, bringing new strengths and experiences to our team. 

What’s your favourite festive treat, and what makes you say: ‘Bah, humbug’? 

My treat is definitely the German Christmas biscuits Plaetzchen and Nuremberger Lebkuchen – and celebrating Christmas on 24 December.  

My Bah Humbug has got to be Turkey. I have never cooked one in my life. Oh... and Christmas Pudding. I have only ever tasted it once. 

This is part of CSW's annual perm secs roundup. Read all the entries to the 2023 roundup here


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