Sir Mark Sedwill, the new Cabinet secretary, has urged civil servants across all of government to prioritise impact and teamwork as he sets out plans to build on his predecessor Sir Jeremy Heywood’s Brilliant Civil Service programme.
In his first message to civil servants since being permanently appointed to the role last week, Sedwill said he had seen in his previous roles – which include a spell as permanent secretary to the Home Office and ambassador to Afghanistan as well as his ongoing role as national security advisor – what can be achieved when all of the civil service works together.
"There are two themes that I want to guide our work and behaviour: impact and teamwork," his statement said. "From the combined civilian and military stabilisation units in Afghanistan, to the multi-agency safeguarding hubs caring for our most vulnerable citizens across the UK, I’ve seen what can be achieved when we operate across institutional boundaries, bringing people together from within the public service and in from the private and third sectors, unified by a common purpose to deliver real impact for our citizens and our country."
Sedwill said that civil servants would need a “ team spirit” in the years ahead, particularly as government works to implement Brexit.
“Alongside all of the government’s other priorities to strengthen our economy and communities, keep our citizens safe and our country secure, our biggest task is to make a success of Brexit,” he said. “This isn’t just a job for the negotiating teams or those working on Brexit programmes, but a common national endeavour. Working across the public, private and third sectors, we must reform the economy to make the most of new global trading opportunities as the technological revolution advances, protect our economy and society from the fast-evolving threats of terrorism, crime and malign states, and ensure that all the government’s economic and social programmes deliver for all our citizens throughout the UK.”
This will require the civil service to show “all our imagination, skills and experience, and, most of all, our values and our sense of duty”, his message, seen by CSW, stated. “Apply all those, generate the big ideas, focus on impact not inputs or institutions, build diverse and inclusive teams from across the public service and beyond, and, like our predecessors in other turbulent times, we will help change the country for the better.”
Sedwill also said he would work with civil service chief executive John Manzoni to build on the legacy of his predecessors, including the Brilliant Civil Service programme launched in 2016 under former Cab sec Sir Jeremy Heywood.
On 24 October it was announced Sedwill, who has been acting Cabinet secretary since June, would stay in the role permanently, as Heywood stepped down due to ill health.
Earlier this month, Sedwill took the unprecedented step of writing to The Times to defend civil servants working on Brexit following criticism by MPs of chief negotiator Olly Robbins.
In the letter, he said: “Civil servants have always trusted that our fellow citizens, whatever their views, know that we are doing our duty to implement the decisions of the governments they elect.”