Defra offers £125k for next Animal and Plant Health Agency chief exec

APHA’s next boss will oversee a “transformation journey, modernising and digitising” the agency’s operations
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By Joseph Williams

05 Jun 2024

The Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is offering up to £125,000 for the next chief executive of the Animal and Plant Health Agency.

The role will entail responsibility for the day-to-day executive leadership, management and performance of APHA, which employs over 3,000 members of staff across 80 locations. 

The next leader of the executive agency must be “comfortable leading in a crisis” and be committed “to the critical role APHA plays in delivering world-class services for the benefit of society, the environment and the economy”, according to the job advert.

APHA is responsible for identifying and controlling endemic and exotic diseases and pests in animals, plants and bees; conducting research into diseases, vaccines and food safety; facilitating international trade in animals and plants; and protecting endangered wildlife through licensing and registration.

The agency is currently undergoing a “transformation journey, modernising and digitising its operations to continue to rise to the challenges of biosecurity risks in a global world”, the advert says. 

Applicants must be able to demonstrate experience of operational leadership in a “large, complex, multidisciplinary body”, including successfully “inspiring a diverse workforce through a period of transformational change”, the advert says.

They must also have a “demonstrable ability to set the strategic direction for an organisation”, and be able to provide “visible and credible leadership in a science and veterinary environment and in technical meetings”.

The successful candidate will succeed David Holdsworth, who was named as the next chief exec of the Charity Commission in February. Jenny Stewart, APHA’s director of science and transformation, is standing in as its interim chief exec from 1 July, when Holdsworth officially steps down.

Writing in the candidate pack, Defra director general of food, biosecurity and trade Sally Randall described the ideal candidate as able to “bring vision, inspirational leadership and a track record of successful operational delivery in a complex environment to make sure the agency continues to deliver its pivotal role to the UK’s biosecurity”.

Some of APHA’s duties include acting as the national and international reference laboratory lead for many infections and non-infectious animal diseases, and training and regulating official veterinary surgeons and para-professional groups. 

Last year APHA won a Nobel House Prize, which celebrates impactful analysis and science across the Defra group, for its response to an outbreak of avian influenza and recently it held a conference on poultry health. 

The Band 2 position boasts an annual salary of £125,000, plus pension benefits including a £33,750 contribution towards a civil service defined benefit pension scheme. The minimum assignment duration for this role is three years. 

The job will include frequent travel between APHA’s offices in England, Wales and Scotland.

Applications close on 12 June. 

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