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

The Treasury second perm sec says resilience is needed after "what feels like concurrent crises over an extended period"
Photo: Rob Wells/Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0

By Civil Service World

04 Jan 2023


What has been your highlight of the last 12 months? 

Bringing the government finance function together in Manchester for our first hybrid event since Covid – we had over 1,800 people attend in person, including 400 online as digital attendees. As a community, we welcomed guests externally and from all other functions to launch our new Government Finance Strategy Finance at the heart of decision making; Delivering value for money, and strengthening public trust.

What was your most difficult decision in 2022? 

Supporting spending decisions in the Autumn Statement and setting out the path of public spending across the medium term. Our work in finance and spending has been intensive over the course of the year as inflation erodes spending power for vital public services. Some of the hardest decisions are yet to come as finance teams across government support ministers to translate cash budgets into meaningful delivery plans for 2023.

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

Our biggest challenge both in the government finance function and HM Treasury is maintaining our resilience and wellbeing. We have had three spending reviews in three years with significant financial uncertainty and intensive delivery through what feels like concurrent crises over an extended period of time. To support the function, the Government Finance Academy have been running wellbeing events focused on personal resilience, mindfulness and defeating stress for staff at all levels. A particular highlight was a session run earlier this year by javelin hero Steve Backley OBE and 400 metre legend Roger Black MBE, two of Great Britain's finest Olympic athletes.

"Our work in finance and spending has been intensive over the course of the year as inflation erodes spending power for vital public services"

And personally, as a leader? 

I think it has been the same for me as a leader, my personal resilience and tenacity to work through long intensive periods of uncertainty and ambiguity has been tested and stretched in every way. I have got through the toughest times with fantastic support from peers and colleagues, family and friends, to whom I am indebted to in so many ways. I have also ran more than ever before, having taken up running to manage my wellbeing and physical resilience. We have a brilliant Treasury running club who keep me sane every Wednesday lunchtime.

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?

I have had a few Christmas eve financial planning meetings that have gone right up until last possible moment and far too late into the evening. For many Finance teams Christmas is the hard stop to finalise budgets and business plans for the next financial period. I can recall a few of these where everyone else has been at the pub and we have just had to keep going. Equally, some of my best Christmas times working have been in solidarity with teams working on time critical issues – the team celebration at the pub on Christmas Eve after finalising a tricky Christmas payment run at the MoJ stands out.

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