National statistician John Pullinger to step down

Chief exec of UK Statistics Authority will retire from role in June 2019

John Pullinger Credit: Office for National Statistics

By Jim.Dunton

22 Nov 2018

John Pullinger is to step down as chief executive of the UK Statistics Authority and national statistician.

When he retires in June next year, Pullinger will have been in post – at permanent secretary grade – for five years.

UKSA chair Sir David Norgrove said Pullinger been an “inspiring leader to analysts not just in ONS but right across government” and had transformed the evidence available to decision-makers across the nation.


In addition to overseeing the Office for National Statistics, the UKSA’s remit also includes public statements about the use of statistics. Recent high-profile interventions include spending claims made by the Department for Education and multiple observations on the real level of the UK’s financial contributions to the European Union.

As Civil Service World’s interview with Pullinger in the latest edition of the magazine underscores, both prime minister Theresa May and erstwhile Brexit secretary Dominic Raab have also felt the UKSA’s wrath, but were “very gracious about it”.

Pullinger joined the civil service 38 years ago with a degree in geography and statistics from the University of Exeter and has worked in multiple Whitehall departments. He has also previously served as House of Commons Librarian and president of the Royal Statistical Society.

His time as UKSA chief executive has seen the introduction of the Digital Economy Act 2017; the establishment of the Economic Statistics Centre of Excellence, and improvements to statistics on productivity, prices and trade; and the launch of the Data Science Campus in Newport. It has also included preparations for the UK’s first online census.

Pullinger said it had been had been “a joy” to work colleagues in his current role, and that the prospect of leaving was “cause for reflection”.

“As a team we have renewed our economic statistics so that they can keep pace with the evolving modern economy,” he said.

“We have rethought data collection and the census so that we can deliver much more helpful insights to guide public policy. And we have built our data capability through development of people, infrastructure and systems.”

UKSA said it would launch an open competition to find Pullinger’s successor shortly.

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