Hunt for next civil service recruitment watchdog begins

New first civil service commissioner will replace Ian Watmore, overseeing top appointments and upholding the civil service code
Ian Watmore's term as first civil service commissioner ends in October. Photo: Photoshot for CSW

By Suzannah Brecknell

10 Aug 2021

The Cabinet Office is looking for someone who understands government and the civil service but is “demonstrably independent of both” to replace Ian Watmore as first civil service commissioner.

The department is offering £89,000 a year for the three day a week role at the Civil Service Commission, which safeguards civil service impartiality and ensures civil service recruitment is fair and open. Watmore’s five-year term as first civil service commissioner ends in October.

The first commissioner acts as the public face of the commission and chairs most recruitment competitions for top civil service posts. They are also expected to take an “active part” in the Senior Leadership Committee “which manages the movement and development of the most senior staff within the civil service,” according to the job advert published this month by the Cabinet Office.

Watmore’s replacement will also be involved with delivering the recently published Declaration on Government Reform, which includes several commitments for the commission, including helping increase diversity and targeting the recruitment of key skills. The first commissioner will also likely be closely involved with government’s plans to ensure ministers have “visibility” over senior appointments – another commitment made in the declaration.

The previous two incumbents – Watmore, and before him Sir David Normington –  were former senior civil servants, though the job advert specifies that serving civil servants will not be appointed to the role.

The advert says that “the successful candidate will be able to demonstrate an understanding of the workings and role of government and the civil service, while being demonstrably independent of both of these”. It also suggests the “candidate should have a background wider than that of just the civil service,” as recommended in a 2014 review of the commission.

Applications must be submitted before 9 September, with interviews taking place later that month and a pre-appointment scrutiny hearing in front of the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs committee scheduled for October.

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