‘There was exceptional teamwork and rigour’: Head of the government finance function Cat Little reflects on her first Spending Review in 2020

2020 was a year unlike any other, with the coronavirus pandemic upending the work of government and changing how we live our daily lives. Senior figures from across the civil service tell us how the unprecedented 12 months affected them, and look ahead to 2021
Treasury director general, Public Spending, and head of the Government Finance Function Cat Little

By Civil Service World

23 Dec 2020


What are you proudest of government achieving in 2020?

It has to be running my first Spending Review in HM Treasury – lots of lessons learnt – but overall I am really proud of the way in which teams across government worked with finance and HM Treasury in an open, collaborative way to get resources to where they are needed most. The Spending Review has demonstrated the exceptional teamwork and rigour of our finance teams who have been a real driving force in this process at every stage. I’m really very grateful to the team who showed great resilience and did such a fantastic job to deliver so much in such a short time. The quality of analysis and the multi-functional approach to delivering settlements has been a personal highlight.

I am especially proud of the implementation of the Public Value Framework – linking resources to outcomes for all major government departments, so that taxpayers can see what we will deliver for their money.

What was the hardest part of being a leader in 2020?

Maintaining collective wellbeing whilst delivering so much. To help address this, I have focused on facilitating regular communication across the Finance Function, both formal and informal, and prioritised maintaining and building networks. The Finance Leadership Group has met almost every week, in one form or another, to collectively lead the Finance Function and look after our people. This has ensured that lines of communication have stayed open and has allowed us to respond quickly to an ever-evolving situation.

OneFinance, our digital platform, has also been essential in driving the Finance Function community’s engagement and learning this year. We’ve now got over 5,000 people registered and using the site to blog, share best practice, and drive collaboration. We introduced a OneFinance Covid-hub in March which played an invaluable role in the early stages of the pandemic – providing updated advice and guidance quickly. We also ran our first Finance Function-wide ‘Digital Festival’ in September to make sure we gave our people the opportunity to have a say and stay connected. Through this we’ve generated more opportunities for our people to share expertise, influence decisions, and put forward creative solutions despite a challenging year.

What are the main challenges facing government in the coming year?

We will need to combine our efforts to beat the virus, recover economically and socially, and deliver more innovation and reformed services. Putting our people first and maintaining our wellbeing and resilience will be key to achieving this.

People will have to be more creative about celebrating this year. How will you make the festive period on Zoom special?

My family mainly live in Spain, so we will be having a midnight ‘Feliz Navidad bebidas’ and then a series of online events with family and friends on the day possibly featuring my favourite game ‘Articulate’.


Finance Leadership
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