'There will be a job for everyone,' Sarah Munby reassures civil servants as BEIS splits

Simon Case acknowledges staff are "unsettled" as perm sec says she "didn’t expect" today's announcement
Photo: Martin Lee/Alamy Stock Photo

The outgoing head of the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy has reassured civil servants that “there will be a job for everyone” in the three ministries that will replace it in today’s reorganisation.

Sarah Munby, who will lead the new Department for Science, Innovation and Technology, told officials that she “didn’t expect” this morning’s announcement that the prime minister had decided to break up BEIS – but said many teams will remain relatively unchanged.

“Well that was a call I didn’t expect. One minute it's packing the mini-Munbies off to school and the next minute, the boss wants to speak,” Munby began her email to BEIS staff this afternoon.

But she told staff: “There will be plenty of support available as we navigate these changes. I’d ask you to bear with us, me, your line manager, as we won’t have all the answers up front. But what I do know is that no one needs to be concerned about their job and there will be more than enough room for everyone in this change.”

The perm sec said it “has got to be a tribute to our impact” that BEIS is being replaced by three departments. Along with SIT, Rishi Sunak announced the creation of a new Department for Energy Security and Net Zero and Department for Business and Trade.

“These are all great new homes – and I am sure our teams will flourish in all of them,” she said.

The memo, seen by CSW, said that for the “vast majority of people, the team around you will look pretty much the same”, while a “very small number” of teams will not move with their director general group to their new department. All of these teams will by now have been made aware of the changes, she added.

These include the Investment Screening Unit, which was created in 2021 to identify and mitigate national security risks associated with the sales of certain assets, and which will move to the Cabinet Office.

Arrangements will be “a little more complicated” for staff working in corporate services and other central functions. The memo added: “For now we will ask for a bit of patience and flexibility as we will need to provide ‘day one’ services to all the new departments.

“I reiterate that there will be a job for everyone given the scale of our collective challenge!”

She said most staff would continue in the "time-honoured tradition of keep calm and carry on" – echoing the message she sent to staff following Boris Johnson's resignation as prime minister in July.

“You will understand that while lots of us will have questions and want more information there is a great deal of work to be done, as well as welcoming ministers to their new departments, and clearly our policy programmes don’t stop as the public still demands we deliver for them, as always,” Munby wrote.

“How people deal with change is very personal – I know for some of you, this will be an exciting new opportunity, and for others, it will bring some anxiety about the unknown. Some will have their heads down amid the noise! I’m a mix personally – really sad to lose BEIS which I love, but looking forward to some new challenges too.”

The perm sec reiterated that civil servants serve the prime minister of the day, adding: “How they chose to arrange their government is their decision.”

The perm sec said it had been an “absolutely tremendous honour” to work at BEIS. “I am so proud of what we have achieved together,” she said.

“I must say I am looking forward to seeing some of the magic that makes BEIS special sprinkled across new departments across the system, but there is definitely also some sadness alongside the new opportunities,” she added.

“And I want to take this moment while still BEIS perm sec to say a huge personal thank you to you all – you are an incredible team and have achieved astonishing things in BEIS (and its predecessor departments!) - more to come on all fronts I am sure.”

Simon Case: Changes may be 'unsettling'

In a separate message, cabinet secretary Simon Case has reassured civil servants that everything is being done to make the departmental changes as “smooth as possible”.

“I know these changes may be unsettling for staff in affected departments and that you will have questions about how they impact you. Your permanent secretaries will already be speaking to you about next steps and the vision for your new departments and together we will work quickly to settle the new structures,” he wrote in an all-staff email.

Civil service chief operating officer Alex Chisholm is meanwhile “ensuring the right corporate structures are in place to support staff through the transition”, Case said.

The cab sec said the changes, which will also see the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport lose its digital brief, “will make sure that we are set up in the best way to deliver for the priorities of the government”.

“This is a significant set of changes and, while we have done everything we can to make them as smooth as possible, there will of course be many important details to work through over the coming days and the changes will take some time to bed in,” he wrote.

“As ever, I am grateful to you all for the work you do every day up and down the country to serve the government and the citizens of the UK and I know you will remain focused on the task at hand as we adapt and modernise to best support the prime minister and his ministers.”

The reorganisation will “ensure the whole of government is set up in the best way, with the skills and teams needed, to deliver on the prime minister’s promises of: halving inflation, growing the economy, reducing debt, cutting waiting lists and stopping the boats”, he said.

“They aim to: ensure our energy supplies are secure; build on the achievements of COP26 and deliver our net zero ambitions; put science and technology at the heart of government in a way that mirrors the increasingly central role these forces play in the global economy and in citizens’ everyday lives; align the teams spearheading our ambitious trade agenda around the world with those supporting enterprise and growth at home; and bring renewed focus to supporting our cultural and creative industries and championing British sport.”

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