Kerslake admits permanent secretary turnover problem

Civil service head Sir Bob Kerslake has told CSW that the turnover of permanent secretaries in the past two years has been too high, and that “in an ideal world” there would not be as much change.

By Civil Service World

05 Dec 2012

“I‘d like to see more continuity and I am hoping we will get this, having been through a period of overwhelming change,” he said. However, he insisted that despite this churn, “there is a lot of stability that is potentially still there” within departments at levels below permanent secretary grade.

Kerslake also said he expects to see more women appointed as permanent secretaries within “the next two or three years”. He is working to increase the proportion of women within the senior civil service (SCS), and said that this “creates the pipeline for more [female] permanent secretaries in the future”.

Kerslake intends to “work with women who might become permanent secretaries” to help them build the right skills and experience, he said, but this approach is “reasonably short term in its impact. We have also got to work through what barriers remain to people going into the SCS; and then when they are in the SCS, of advancing within it up to permanent secretary.”

Speaking to the House of Commons Political and Constitutional Reform committee last week, Kerslake said the recent fall in numbers of women permanent secretaries was “a matter of regret” and that he’d like to return to the 50/50 ratio that former cabinet secretary Lord O’Donnell “fleetingly” achieved.


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