By CivilServiceWorld

05 Dec 2011

Permanent Secretary, Department for Communities and Local Government

On 1 January, Sir Bob will become the Head of the Civil Service

What are you most proud of achieving in 2011?
I’m most proud of the way that DCLG has undertaken a very major restructuring whilst at the same time delivering on a very big government agenda. This is a real tribute to the professionalism and commitment of the staff who work in the department. The most visible policy achievement has been the Localism Act, but there has been good progress across every part of the department’s Reform Plan. On a personal level, being appointed as head of the civil service has got to be the biggest event for me. I am delighted and proud to have been asked to take on this role.

How has the shape and structure of the department changed during 2011?
The department has been fundamentally re-shaped around our two key goals – localism (leading the transfer of power to the lowest practicable level), and localities (creating the conditions in which local places can succeed and prosper). The size of the top team has been reduced by half, and we’ve completely reorganised the directorates. The changes go well beyond structure, though. Like many departments, we are moving to a much more flexible, team-based way of working.

What is the most important thing the department must achieve during 2012?
For the year ahead, DCLG needs to move from becoming smaller through the restructuring process to becoming stronger through changing the way we work. The last year has been pretty tough, but we have now substantially completed the restructuring and the closure of the Government Offices. This gives us a firm platform on which to build. Our big policy priorities will include contributing to the growth agenda through strengthening local economies, taking forward the localising of business rates, and implementing the recently-announced housing strategy. It is going to be another busy year!

How is the civil service likely to change during 2012?
We will all need to come to terms with the new economic reality we are facing, finding creative solutions to deliver government ambitions that do not rely on new money or more regulation. Effective implementation of a big policy agenda will be vital to keeping the confidence of ministers. In terms of our own reform agenda, we need to identify and agree with ministers the priorities for change and then organise their delivery. The civil service has immense strengths but also needs to adapt to a new world with new expectations. This will require strong corporate leadership towards a shared endeavour.

Which historical, mythological or contemporary figure would you most like to join for Christmas dinner?
I am struggling here to decide whether to go for someone literary, scientific or political. In the end I think I would pick one of the romantic poets, Shelley. Christmas would certainly be different!

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