Welsh Government kicks off nine-month search for next perm sec

Move confirms that Shan Morgan's five-year contract will not be renewed.

Photo: Louise Haywood-Schiefer

The Welsh Government has kicked off the search for its next permanent secretary – nine months before Dame Shan Morgan is due to step down.

The Welsh Government is now seeking an “ambitious and inspiring” leader to replace Morgan, whose civil service and diplomatic career spans more than 40 years.

The move confirms that Morgan's five-year contract, which is scheduled to end in February 2022, will not be renewed.

Asked whether this meant her contract would be cut short, a Welsh Government spokesperson said the first minister was keen to get the "lengthy process" of recruiting Morgan's successor "underway in good time before the end of her contract in early 2022".

Applications are set to close on 1 June, with the interview and appointment timeline to be "finalised", according to a candidate pack attached to the job ad.

In early 2019, it was reported that first minister Mark Drakeford had asked Morgan to step down, with anonymous sources saying he wanted a “fresh start”.

However, the reports were dismissed by the government as “nonsense” and she stayed put.

Since joining the Employment Department in 1977, Morgan worked across a range of roles oriented around employment and social affairs policy, later becoming ambassador to Argentina and Paraguay.

She became deputy permanent representative to the EU in 2012, and was named perm sec five years later.

Morgan was given a damehood in the 2017 Queen's Birthday Honours for her diplomatic service.

The job advert, posted without fanfare this week, said the Welsh Government is seeking a new perm sec to “lead the delivery of the government’s agenda” as the nation recovers from the coronavirus pandemic.

“The response to Covid has unleashed a step change in delivery and innovation across our public services,” the job ad said.

“We want to capitalise on this, to build back fairer, in order to build back better as we come out of the current emergency and adapt to our future outside the EU.”

The new perm sec, who will earn between £162,500 and £180,000, must be able to “inspire and motivate staff, and embrace our one Wales public service way of working, based on social partnership, co-production and common purpose”, according to the candidate pack.

The perm sec is also expected to “embrace and promote” Wales’s heritage as a bilingual country with a unique culture, according to the candidate pack.

This means that as part of efforts to promote diversity and inclusion across the Welsh Government and its agencies, they must promote the Welsh language “visibly and enthusiastically”, the pack says.

They will be the first minister’s principal adviser, helping to set the strategy for the Welsh Government and ensure policy is “evidence-based and achievable”.

They will also advise other ministers and be responsible for “translating ministers’ ambitions into a clear vision to staff”.

“The successful candidate will be ambitious for change in the way we work, internally and with partners, to achieve social, environmental and economic justice for every part of Wales,” the job ad said.

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