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

In the first entry of CSW’s annual permanent secretaries’ round-up, the cabinet secretary shares his reflections on an eventful year
Simon Case and Liz Truss attend the Service of Prayer and Reflection at St Paul's Cathedral on 9 September following the death of Queen Elizabeth II. Photo: PA Images/Alamy Stock Photo

By Civil Service World

12 Dec 2022


What has been your highlight of the last 12 months? 

Getting out and visiting civil servants across the country. It’s fantastic being out on the road again, meeting people face to face and seeing all the amazing things civil servants do. 

What was your most difficult decision in 2022? 

It wasn’t a decision, but the thing that I found so very difficult was telling the prime minister that Her Majesty the Queen had died. I will never forget that moment. 

What is the biggest challenge facing your organisation in 2023, and how are you preparing to meet it? 

It has to be skills – if we are to meet the challenges of the future we must equip civil servants with the skills they want and need to deliver the best services and advice. This means providing world-class training, improving our digital and data capability and bringing in more people from science, technology and engineering backgrounds. 

“When you’re in charge of a huge organisation like the civil service, prioritisation is always the main challenge”

And personally, as a leader? 

Prioritisation. I think this has to be the main challenge facing any leader - trying to strike the right balance between things that are urgent vs. strategic challenges. 

It's not only Santa who has to work at Christmas. What is your best, worst or weirdest experience of working in the festive season? 

Things always seem to crop up during the Christmas period! It’s also my birthday on 27th December and on one occasion when parts of the country had been hit by devastating flooding I remember David Cameron phoning and saying something along the lines of “I know it’s your birthday but you are coming with me to visit the communities that have been impacted by these floods.” That was definitely a festive experience to remember. 

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