'Whitehall titan' Sue Gray takes union brief to levelling up department

Gray says she is "excited" about move under Michael Gove but denies being "titan"
Photo: GOV.UK

Former Cabinet Office ethics tsar Sue Gray has moved to the freshly rebranded Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities.

Gray, who left Cabinet Office for a post in the Northern Ireland Civil Service in 2018, returned to the department in April to lead work on the Union and constitution.

After just five months as second permanent secretary, she has now moved to the housing ministry, which was renamed over the weekend to reflect the government’s flagship regional growth strategy.

Under new secretary of state Michael Gove, DLUHC has taken over the union brief from the Cabinet Office. Gove is now minister of intergovernmental relations as well as levelling up secretary.

In an email to staff seen by Sky News, permanent secretary Jeremy Pocklington said he was “delighted” to welcome Gray to DLUHC, retaining her responsibility for the union and constitution directorate.

Gray, who is based in Belfast, said the brief would bring “great opportunities” for Northern Ireland and promised she would be “always in NI’s corner”.

“I am excited with [the] brief of the new department and to playing a very full role,” she said.

However, she waved aside a description of herself as a "Whitehall titan" as "hilarious".

Gray has descibed herself as a "disrupter" and suggested this may have been why her bid to become head of the Northern Ireland Civil Service earlier this year was unsuccessful.

“I really wanted the job, but had to get over it,” she said in May an interview in May. “Perhaps I would bring about... too much change. And yes, I wanted to have change," she added.

She said her Cabinet Office job would be to "ensure and maintain the union and support the prime minister in that work".

“I will be a very powerful voice for Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales and England,”she said. “And I’ll be working with departments to ensure that when they’re developing policies that we are taking into account the different parts of the United Kingdom.”

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