By Civil Service World

30 Dec 2022

Civil service leaders share their highlights and toughest calls, and remember Christmases past


It has been a challenging year for civil service leaders, but there have been achievements to celebrate too. In the 2022 edition of CSW's annnual perm secs round-up, permanent secretaries and leaders across government reflect on an eventful year and share their goals for the next one. Plus, we asked them to share their best, worst or weirdest experiences of working during the festive season.

Simon Case: ‘The thing I found most difficult in 2022? Telling the PM the Queen had died’

'Empowering East and Southeast Asian officials was a highlight': Civil Service Race Forum looks back on 2022

Results day and staff cuts: DfE chief Susan Acland-Hood's post-pandemic highs and difficult decisions

"It’s my birthday on 27 December and on one occasion when parts of the country had been hit by devastating flooding, David Cameron phoned and said 'I know it’s your birthday but you are coming with me to visit the communities that have been impacted.' That was a festive experience to remember." Simon Case

Out with the old, in with the new: GDS head Tom Read looks to the future

‘I have to make sure the ship is not blown off course': Alex Chisholm's cross-government efficiency drive – and the teenage job that crushed his festive spirit

'Anything but routine': Met Office boss Penelope Endersby on a record year

Sadness, pride, and complex judgements: GLD boss Susanna McGibbon looks back on 2022

"My biggest challenge as a leader is knowing that many of my colleagues in the system are exhausted after three years of a public health and NHS crisis, but that there is unlikely to be much of a respite in the coming year." Chris Whitty


'The biggest challenge for 2023? Tempering my ambition in the face of reality’: FSA’s Emily Miles looks ahead

Angela MacDonald shares HMRC's 2022 highlights – including capturing Britain’s most wanted woman

In a world of hybrid working, organisational culture matters' – Jeff James on a year in the life of The National Archives

'Major projects can boost growth, but picking the right ones isn't simple': IPA boss Nick Smallwood reflects on 2022

"Making financial allocations when we have so many competing priorities across the justice system, as well as a changing fiscal backdrop, has been an ongoing challenge." Antonia Romeo

'I am impressed at colleagues’ resilience, but 2023 is unlikely to bring much respite': Chris Whitty’s New Year predictions

Antonia Romeo on delivering a ‘game changer for victims’ and balancing the MoJ's competing priorities

Gisela Stuart: ‘These exceptional times have demonstrated the value of an impartial civil service to vital democratic checks and balances’

DfT boss Bernadette Kelly: ‘I could write a book on the journey to opening Crossrail – but I always believed it would come good in the end’

" My challenge is to make time to listen to people, and to be available for colleagues to share their experience so we can do what we can to support them." Peter Schofield


Equality Hub director Marcus Bell on sign language success, a tough ‘media climate’ – and why Slade makes him shudder

Helping hands: Peter Schofield on a year of delivering for people in need

'Our inspectors have been clear-eyed about standards, while recognising the impact of Covid': What made Ofsted's Amanda Spielman proud in 2022

 Cost-of-living crisis ‘means extremely challenging times ahead’– Charity Commission chief Helen Stephenson

"Last year I spent my Christmas break on potential legal challenges around bird management plans, to avoid bird strikes, near RAF airfields. Definitely not a case of turkeys voting for Christmas!" David Williams

Joe Biden ‘delight’, working through Christmas and maintaining a relentless focus on the future – NICS chief recalls ‘another exceptionally challenging year’

‘We have to hold to our values’: Home Office perm sec Matthew Rycroft reflects on tough decisions and the need to inspire colleagues in 2022

Colleagues rallied round to support the people of Ukraine – but Ajax and rogue birds proved challenging: David Williams on the MoD’s 2022 highs and lows

‘I thought my heart would burst out of my chest’ – HMPPS boss Amy Rees’s proudest 2022 moments

"Making sure we keep the benefits of collaborative working, while recognising the changes in culture brought about by the pandemic, has been a challenge and we’re still working through what it will mean long term." Mark Chivers

For the Scottish Government, 2022 was about making progress together in hard times

Abortion access, the Northern Ireland Protocol and other knotty issues: Madeleine Alessandri on a year in the life of the NIO

Impact through collaboration - Crown Prosecution Service chief Max Hill reflects on a year of 'real progress' and difficult decisions

‘The hardest decision? Deciding what hybrid working is’: Government property chief Mark Chivers reflects on 2022

"Our staff are experiencing the toughest cost of living increases in many years. Doing my very best to help them through this period is a big issue for me as leader of the organisation." Gareth Davies

Securing commitments to do better: David Black on Ofwat's progress in a ‘tough’ year

‘A key priority for the Welsh Government has been resetting and refocusing after a sustained period in crisis-response mode’: Andrew Goodall on 2022

Decision on extra pay increase ‘was the hardest call this year’, National Audit Office chief says

Procuring services and equipment for the period of mourning and turning heads with a net-zero initiative: Gareth Rhys Williams’ 2022 highlights

"BEIS has been in the front room of everyone in the UK this year." Sarah Munby

Keeping pace with interest rate changes and saying goodbye: NS&I’s Ian Ackerley on 2023’s challenges

‘I’ve only been here about three months, but I’m hugely impressed’: New Environment Agency chair on filling big shoes, extreme weather and a worrying skills gap

Continuing to fight Covid and celebrating women in science: UKHSA’s Jenny Harries looks back on 2022

‘It took the most heroic of efforts from a whole cast of players’: Ofqual chief regulator Jo Saxton on the return of exams

"My advice is never pick up a ringing desk phone that isn’t yours on Christmas Eve." James Heath

‘Major policy projects are a marathon, not a sprint’ – National Infrastructure Commission chief James Heath’s lessons from 2022

Energy aid and staff pay: BEIS boss Sarah Munby on a frenetic year

'Some of the Treasury's hardest decisions are yet to come': Cat Little looks ahead

Douglas Wilson on seeking justice for atrocities in Ukraine – and the Christmas the AGO boss spent in Baghdad

"I have reduced the size of the central GCS team by 55% this year. Choosing what work to stop and telling people who had worked exceptionally hard that we were closing their team was extremely difficult." Simon Baugh

Fast forward: Louise Smyth’s year of accelerated change at Companies House

‘Deciding where to cut staff was hard’ – Simon Baugh on restructuring GCS and reacting to once-in-a-generation events

‘Transformation won’t come easy’: Megan Lee on keeping a 'razor-sharp focus’ at CDDO and tackling recruitment challenges head on

Accents, qualifications and recruitment: how the Government Socio-Economic Diversity Network will challenge barriers and biases in 2023


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