Treasury shakes up leadership as Cat Little departs

Beth Russell will take on new responsibilities while the Treasury considers recruiting a replacement second perm sec
Cat Little is departing the Treasury in April. Photo: ZUMA Press/Alamy

By Tevye Markson

13 Mar 2024

The Treasury is considering appointing a new second permanent secretary to replace Cat Little, permanent secretary James Bowler has said.

For now, Little’s fellow Treasury second perm sec Beth Russell and another senior official will take on some of her responsibilities when she leaves for the Cabinet Office at the beginning of April, Bowler said.  

The perm sec gave the update on the Treasury’s senior management structure in a letter to the Public Accounts Committee published this week. This follows the news last month that Little will replace Alex Chisholm as civil service chief operating officer and Cabinet Office perm sec.

In her role as second perm sec at the Treasury, Little is responsible for public spending and international finance. She is also head of the government finance function. She will step down from both positions when she starts her new job at the Cabinet Office on 2 April.

Writing to PAC chair Meg Hillier on 29 February, Bowler said: “I am considering with ministers recruiting a future second permanent secretary and will keep you informed."

He said Russell will “take responsibility at permanent secretary level for all public spending alongside her current responsibilities for tax and growth”.

“This will not be a like-for-like replacement for Cat, as Beth will focus on joining up policy across spending, tax and regulatory levers, and on public service reform,” he said.  

Conrad Smewing, who is director general for public spending, “will take on most of [Little’s] day-to-day responsibilities including on spending control, public sector pay and productivity, and preparations for the Spending Review", Bowler added.

Smewing will also become one of two heads of the government finance function alongside a yet-to-be-appointed experienced official who workes in another department. Bowler said he is “running a competition to find a co-head with experience of leading the finance function in a line department”.

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