New CEO to be recruited from the business world

The Cabinet Office has made clear that its new chief executive will require substantial experience as a top business person, ruling out the vast majority of serving civil servants.

By Matt.Ross

28 Jul 2014

The job description, produced to accompany an ad that appeared this morning on the civil service jobs website, says that the CEO “will need to be able to demonstrate that he or she has had a successful career in the private sector working in one or more large, complex, multi-stakeholder organisation with a  track record of delivering transformational change and cost reduction.”

The document also gives further details of the role, explaining that the CEO will “support the cabinet secretary in managing the performance of the departmental permanent secretaries and ensuring that their delivery objectives are met.” As Cabinet Office accounting officer, they’ll control all of its reform and efficiency functions, and they’ll be required to “support and challenge departmental permanent secretaries to ensure that the Government’s operational delivery, reform and programme priorities are implemented with pace and vigour.”

The appointee will attend Cabinet as an observer; they will have responsibilities to Cabinet secretary Jeremy Heywood, who will be their line manager, but “day to day he/she will work to the minister for the Cabinet Office, and on efficiency issues, to the chief secretary to the Treasury.”

The salary is given as £180-200,000, and the document includes a tight schedule and the names of the appointment panel: the chair will be first civil service commissioner David Normington, and the members the cabinet secretary, the Treasury permanent secretary, the government’s lead non-executive Lord Browne, and Cabinet Office non-executive Rona Fairhead.

The full job description hardens the language used in the advert, which says only that their experience of leadership in a period of change and cost reduction “would be likely to be in the private sector.” The requirement rules out the vast majority of senior civil servants, leaving only a few relatively recent arrivals such as energy and climate change permanent secretary Stephen Lovegrove and government chief operating officer Stephen Kelly.

Peter Riddell, director of the Institute for Government, commented that “the job description for the newly created position of chief executive of the civil service shows that the new role will not be a chief executive in any sense normally recognised in either the private or public sectors. The holder of the new post will not be responsible for either running the civil service or line managing permanent secretaries. The role, while important, will be more modest”.

“Moreover, the appointment is being rushed. There is only a fortnight between the closing date for applications and final interviews, and the proposed start is only six weeks later—a far more compressed timetable than would be normal for a senior corporate leader in the private sector.”

Read Sir Bob Kerslake's last interview as head of the civil service here

See also: Kerslake steps down as civil service head


Read the most recent articles written by Matt.Ross - Kerslake sets out ‘unfinished business’ in civil service reform

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