Bernadette Kelly named as new DfT perm sec

Rail Group DG takes up post at the Department for Transport, increasing number of female departmental chiefs to five

By Richard Johnstone

18 Apr 2017

Bernadette Kelly has been named the permanent secretary at the Department for Transport, taking up the post following Philip Rutnam’s move to the Home Office.

Kelly is promoted to the top job in the department from director general of the Rail Group in the department, a post she has held since September 2015. Prior to this, Kelly held roles at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills including director general of business and local growth and director general of fair markets.

Having joined the civil service after graduating, Kelly has also worked in the Treasury, the Cabinet Office, and in the Prime Minister’s Policy Unit.

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Confirming the appointment, cabinet secretary Sir Jeremy Heywood said Kelly “has an excellent track record, having worked in a number of departments across government including most recently at the Department for Transport”.

He said: “She will bring that experience together with her strong leadership skills to her new role and I look forward to working with her on the challenges ahead.”

Kelly said she was delighted to be appointed to the post. “DfT is a great department and I have hugely enjoyed working here in rail. It is an honour to be asked to lead the department and I’m looking forward to the challenge ahead.”

The vacancy at the top of the DfT was created after Rutnam’s move to the Home Office in February, where he replaced Mark Sedwill.

Kelly is the fifth woman currently leading a Whitehall department. The others are Antonia Romeo (Department for International Trade), Sue Owen (Department for Culture, Media and Sport), Melanie Dawes (Department for Communities and Local Government) and Clare Moriarty (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs).

In total, 11 woman currently hold permanent secretary grade posts in the civil service, which includes Leslie Evans and Shan Morgan heading up the Scottish and Welsh governments, and Dame Sally Davies the chief medical officer.

The government’s chief people officer Rupert McNeil has written that achieving complete gender balance across the civil service is a “critical priority for the organisation”. Currently, women make up 54% of the civil service overall, but are under-represented in senior grades. Just 40% of the senior civil service are women, and at the very top – perm sec grade – just a quarter are women.

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