By Jonathan Jones

31 Dec 2018

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 they’d choose to turn on their town’s Christmas lights. 

What was your highlight of 2018?

It has been a pretty extraordinary year. First, I’ll recognise the sterling work GLD is doing to support the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union – bringing together wide expertise from across the department to support the negotiations, prepare the necessary legislation, handle the litigation challenges and advise on the various plans and preparations. I’ve played a bit of a role in some of that myself.

Of course that’s on top of the many other issues which have required legal support – Windrush; the Salisbury nerve agent incident; the Grenfell Tower public enquiry; the collapse of Carillion; the inquests into the London Bridge and Manchester arena terrorist attacks; and the thousands of other cases, decisions and issues we’ve handled.

But in the end it’s all about our people, and the work we’re doing to build a really strong culture of collaboration, inclusion and improvement in GLD. We celebrated this at our staff conference just recently, with the theme of creating connections between our people, our clients and new ways of working. We had a special message from the prime minister and other great speakers including the lord chief justice, the attorney general and Met commissioner Cressida Dick.

What was the hardest part of being a leader in 2018?

2018 has been a challenging year for all of us, not least in GLD. We’ve had to meet intense but unpredictable demands, including the urgent pressures of Brexit, while continuing to keep our eyes on the longer term strategy of investing for the future of government legal services and of our people. Balancing my own time and energies in this has sometimes been a challenge.

What are the main challenges facing your department in the coming year?

Like other parts of the civil service, it will be making sure we’ve got the right people with the right skills in the right place to be able to respond to the growing demands for our services. Our people are our most valuable resource, and should be acknowledged for their commitment, passion and dedication to helping the government to govern well.

Which celebrity or historical figure would you choose to turn on the Christmas lights in your town, and why?

In this centenary of women’s suffrage, I would choose Emmeline Pankhurst. A ground-breaker, an agitator and a real character.

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