With the end of 2016 fast approaching, we asked the UK's top officials to look back at the year, outline their goals for 2017 – and shed some light on their festive favourites. Mark Sedwill, permanent secretary at the Home Office takes part in our annual perm secs round-up...
What was your highlight of 2016?
Difficult to pick just one. I have seen a lot of good work across a range of areas. For example, one highlight for me was meeting police, fire and ambulance crew members to hear their stories about saving lives together. It was good to hear how enthused colleagues were about seeing the wider Home Office community working more closely together. Another positive moment was meeting Syrian nationals who have been brought to the UK through the Vulnerable Persons Relocation Scheme. Seeing what we deliver and the difference the Home Office can make to individuals’ lives is always a key highlight for me. And, finally, attending a meeting of the Civil Service Lifeboat Fund, which I chair, hosted on the floating Tower Lifeboat Station on the Thames – sobering to hear it is the UK’s busiest station.
What has been the most significant change in your department this year?
The referendum result, the former home secretary’s move to Number 10, and a new ministerial team at the Home Office. As professional public servants we have worked hard to prepare for – and then adapt to – the changes this involves. What has not changed is our continued commitment to delivering government priorities, maintaining a focus on our policy and operational work and transforming our capabilities to keep citizens safe and the country secure.
What will be the biggest challenge of 2017 – and how are you preparing to meet it?
Brexit – while still delivering our objectives to prevent terrorism, cut crime, protect the vulnerable, control immigration, transform the department and promote growth. I will continue to work with colleagues in the department, across government, at home and abroad, as well as in the wider Home Office community, to make a success of the UK’s new position in the world.
What was the best Christmas present that you’ve ever given or received? And the worst?
Best present: the look of delight when someone opens the present you’ve given them and you know the delight is genuine and that you’ve chosen right.
Worst present: last year the Home Affairs Select Committee sent me a Christmas card depicting me as Darth Vader. But I suppose as any Star Wars fan knows, beneath the mask he does have a heart.
More: Perm secs round-up 2016 – Britain's top civil servants review the year and look ahead to 2017