PM seeks economics expert to be next private secretary

Economic affairs post involves leading on policy development for business, housing and transport
Photo: Sergeant Tom Robinson RLC/Crown Copyright/OGL

By CSW staff

02 Dec 2021

The Cabinet Office is offering up to £117,800 for a "strong and respected leader" to be the next private secretary to the prime minister focused on economic affairs.

The successful candidate will work with the Downing Street policy and delivery units and lead on work with the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and the Department for Transport, along with commercial matters in the Cabinet Office.

The role is one of four SCS1-grade private secretaries to the prime minister, and involves reporting to the deputy private secretary.

As well as developing policies, it involves advising the prime minister on the relevant departments’ business, presenting and defending policies, arranging and preparing meetings and announcements and delivering the prime minister’s objectives across Whitehall.

The job is offered as a two-year fixed term contract paying between £71,000 and £117,800.

The successful candidate “will be an expert in the field, strategic, have strong and concise communication skills, and be able to prioritise”, the job advert says.

Given their work involves linking the prime minister and the civil service, private secretaries can go on to progress to the most senior roles in government. Cabinet secretary Simon Case served as principal private secretary – the most senior role in the PM's private office – to David Cameron then Theresa May in 2016-17.

In December 2020, he told CSW that one of the proudest moments of his career was handling the aftermath of the 2016 EU referendum in that role. “It's very easy to take for granted the smooth handover of power in our system, but actually, managing the transition from David Cameron to Theresa May and being part of how our democracy works – those are things that make me proud,” he said.

Other former PPSs to the PM include James Bowler, who is now permanent secretary at the Department for International Trade, and the late cabinet secretary Jeremy Heywood.

In 2017, Alastair Whitehead, who was then the prime minister's private secretary for home affairs, told Civil Service Live that those doing the job should “act with humility in everything they do” and recognise that they are not a senior decision maker but “a gearing mechanism between the ministerial team – or the senior official team if you’re working on the official side – and the wider system that sits underneath them”.

He joked that the interview for private secretaries could involve letting a chicken loose in the room and favouring candidates that asked “do we have lines to take on the chicken?” rather than running after it.

After moving to the National Crime Agency for two years, Whitehead returned to the Cabinet Office to serve in roles including deputy head of the delivery unit before leaving the civil service this summer.

Applications for the private secretary job close on 19 December.

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