Freshly knighted Home Office permanent secretary Sir Matthew Rycroft has dedicated his gong to “unsung” public servants whose work receives “little credit”.
Rycroft was the only head of a main civil service department to be recognised in the 2023 New Year Honours, while Sir Tom Scholar – who was sacked as the Treasury’s top official in September – received his second gong.
A former ambassador to the UN, he was recognised for his services to British diplomacy, development and domestic policy in the King’s New Year Honours 2023. Rycroft spent three years as British permanent representative to the United Nations before becoming perm sec at the now-defunct Department for International Development in 2018. He moved to the Home Office in March 2020.
Rycroft was previously chief operating officer for the Foreign Office, overseeing the FCO's network of 270 posts worldwide.
In a statement, Rycroft described the announcment of his knighthood as the “honour of my life”.
“Many congratulations to all those from the Home Office, FCDO, across the civil service and those we work with who have also received honours. We are immensely grateful for the outstanding work you do,” he said.
“In over 30 years as a public servant, I have been fortunate enough to work alongside many many amazing people who have dedicated their own lives to improving the lives of others.
“So this award is not just for me. It is for the countless public servants who are doing a brilliant job, often unsung, behind the scenes, with little credit. Thank you.”
Rycroft has been outspoken in his praise for officials, intervening in a row over flexible working arrangements at HM Passport Office in which then-HMPO chief Abi Tierney was criticised in the press for working from home and from the department’s locations across the country last year.
He described Tierney as a “hugely talented leader” and said her working location had “zero bearing on the current situation with passports”, with backlogs caused by a rush in applications after Covid travel restrictions were lifted.
Rycroft said Passport Office staff were “working flat out to meet the demand”, adding: "We are proud to be spreading opportunity and talent across the country, moving away from the outdated notion that everything must be done in London."
Writing in CSW’s annual perm secs roundup last month, Rycroft said it had been an “absolute pleasure to stand alongside colleagues in the Home Office who work tirelessly, day-in-day-out to deliver the best outcomes for the people of this country”.
“They aren’t often recognised for the work they do – in fact, the Home Office rarely gets positive news coverage since so much of what we do is about preventing negative things from happening. But I know, having met many of them this year, that these are conscientious, hard-working individuals who have the people they serve at the heart of their decision-making,” he wrote.