By Civil Service World

16 Dec 2013

Sir Bob Kerslake
Head of the Civil Service and Permanent Secretary of the Department for Communities and Local Government

What were your biggest policy and delivery challenges in 2013? How did you handle them?
This year the civil service continued to deliver the government’s ambitious reform programme while undergoing further change itself. 2013 was a year of progress as far as the Civil Service Reform Plan is concerned – publishing our first Capabilities Plan, setting out plans to increase accountability in our One Year On report, and delivering the first cross-civil service cohort of apprentices. To have done this at a time of substantial budget reduction is particularly admirable.

We know that 2014 is likely to present similar challenges and, in the longer term, whichever party (or combination of parties) is in power after 2015, we are unlikely to say goodbye to austerity measures for a while to come. Having spent a lot of time visiting civil servants the length and breadth of the country throughout 2013, I am optimistic that this is a challenge we can continue to meet.

Where have you made the most progress in implementing the Civil Service Reform Plan, and what are your reform priorities for 2014?
From a civil service perspective, 2013 was a year of big change. For me, the development of the Capabilities Plan was a real success story – the plan sets out our strategy to strengthen as an organisation through improved learning and development, a new secondment and interchange programme, and contingency for filling short-term skills gaps. We are seeking to improve as an organisation, and mapping out precisely where we need to do better is crucial to this process.

I want 2014 to be the year that we take an even more focused approach to the delivery of the reform plan – to make sure that our implementation lives up to our ambition. To help guide this, I will be pushing seven key ‘game-changers’: I want us to focus on developing our digital capability; strengthening our functional leadership; further opening the policy-making process; modernising our workplaces; delivering major projects on time; and defining our vision for the future of the civil service. I also want 2014 to be a big year for diversity. We have made strong progress, but we must do more. As we continue to reform, upholding and enhancing our diversity credentials remains an enduring focus.

What are your key challenges in the last year of the Parliament? How will you tackle them?
One key challenge is for us is to define our organisation’s future vision. The reform plan talks about what we need to do in the immediate term to ensure that the civil service is capable of meeting the challenges of modern government, but what do we want our organisation to look like in five, 10 or even 20 years’ time?

We are at the early stages of this process, and I want to seek the views of civil servants from across the country and at all grades. We will be holding engagement sessions with groups of staff on a regular basis to make sure that we get this right – all civil servants should be able to say that they are proud to be members of the organisation.

What would you like Santa to bring you this year? And what should he take away?
I’d love Santa to bring me some more time to go walking in the Peak District. And I would like him to take away the constantly disrupted rail services from Sheffield to London each Sunday!

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