As you may have seen, I have today announced my intention to step down from my duties as Head of the Civil Service in the autumn and retire from the Civil Service at the end of February next year when I am 60.
The Prime Minister has decided to create a new full time Chief Executive post to lead on efficiency and reform. I will continue full time as Permanent Secretary at Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) until February.
I should say first that it has been an absolute privilege doing both parts of my job.
I am extremely proud to have led the Civil Service, and most of all civil servants through a period of change and uncertainty. Over the last few years we have, together, achieved a tremendous amount and I leave safe in the knowledge that the Civil Service is changing for the better.
As Head of the Civil Service I have been able to develop and deliver the Civil Service Reform plan. Two years on from its publication, reform has gone beyond a plan to become a reality. Visiting the Civil Service Live events in Bristol and Liverpool recently I was able to see for myself just how much is happening to create a more unified, skilled and open Civil Service. Change is now happening in every part of government.
As many of you will know I am a relative newcomer to the Civil Service, only joining in 2010. Since becoming its head, my abiding impression is of the commitment, integrity and ability that civil servants bring to their jobs. The last 4 years have been challenging, with staff reductions, pay restraint and pension changes but I believe the Civil Service has delivered brilliantly on a massive programme of change for the government.
The underpinning strength of the Civil Service lies in its commitment to public service and its values of honesty, integrity, objectivity and impartiality.
These are the foundation of everything it does. To this, through the reform programme, we can add an ambition to be highly skilled, more efficient and more joined up. It is worth saying that despite the challenges, the Civil Service is more trusted by the public now than it has ever been.
The vast majority of civil servants work outside Whitehall and one of the very best bits of my job has been travelling around the country visiting civil servants where they work. Last Friday, for example, I went to Preston to meet civil servants working in the North West. It would not be too much of an exaggeration to say that I have found these visits inspirational. In every case the passion to learn, innovate and improve has shone through.
Less brilliant have been the ‘noises off’ criticizing civil servants and accusing them of being reluctant to change. Such criticism is deeply unfair and I hope that I have done my bit to challenge it. You can though, be its biggest advocates, talking with pride to your friends outside about what we deliver on a daily basis.
As Permanent Secretary of DCLG, I have been able to work on my passions of delivering more housing, promoting local growth and transferring power to local government and local communities.
DCLG has itself gone through a big and difficult transformation, reducing in size by over a third and closing down the government offices. However it has throughout this period been a strong deliverer, doing what it says it will do. From reform of local government finance through to major changes in the planning system, DCLG has delivered big change well. We now have a strong and purposeful leadership group with engagement scores on the up. We will soon be moving into our new accommodation in Marsham Street with the Home Office making substantial savings in the process.
In many ways DCLG has exemplified the resilience and strength of the civil service, able to respond rapidly to new government priorities and change the way it works. I have been very proud to lead it as Permanent Secretary.
And so, finally, to return to where I started this blog. The Civil Service is a unique and inspirational organisation. It has been a great honour to lead it through one of its toughest and most challenging times. It deserves to succeed and it deserves recognition for the massive changes that it has already delivered.
I will continue to champion its strengths in whatever role I take on after February.
It has been a pleasure working with you.