Government Digital Service bags MoJ chief digital officer and No 10 policy adviser

Arif Harbott, the chief digital and information office at the Ministry of Justice, has joined the Government Digital Service on a short-term contract to advise on digital, data and technology. 

Harbott and Ackroyd will join GDS as it moves to a new HQ in Algate – Photo credit: Derwent London

He will also lead the GDS’s Digital Academy as it is made into a national, cross-government programme, having previously been managed by the Department for Work and Pensions.

Making the announcement in a blogpost, GDS boss Kevin Cunnington said that Harbott would take over from Susana Berlevy, who has left GDS to join Lloyds at London.

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Before working at the MoJ, a position he held for almost 18 months, he had digital roles at Morrisons, Lloyds and Oracle, as well as spending six years as a management consultant in the European Commission.

Cunnington said that Harbott was “in a strong position to take up the reins as he has extensive experience in digital and technology both inside and out of government”.

In addition to the academy, which GDS intends to train 3,000 people a year on more than 300 courses, Cunnington said that Harbott would “work on other parts of capability-building at GDS: workforce planning, attraction and recruitment, learning and development and employer branding”.

Harbott’s departure from the MoJ was announced in the summer, and his former role has been taken on by Tom Read – who was formerly the chief technology officer at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.

The news follows comments in an Institute for Government report about the dangers of departments “poaching” each other’s digital specialists – however these concerns were brushed off by chief executive of the Drivers and Vehicles Licensing Agency Oliver Morley.

At a recent event, Morley said poaching should be expected given that the 1%-a-year cap on public sector pay rises meant moving people between departments was the only way to move them up the pay scale.

Meanwhile, GDS – which has been troubled by a series of high-profile resignations since the surprise departure of former leader Stephen Foreshew-Cain – also announced another new recruit today.

Emily Ackroyd, a senior policy adviser for welfare, employment and pensions at Number 10, is to join the service as director of policy and engagement, and will be responsible for strengthening GDS’s role in policy.

“As we start to work more with departments to deliver transformation, we need to bridge the gap between policy and delivery,” Cunnington said.

“In addition, Emily will lead on how we engage with and better understand the priorities of other parts of Whitehall.”

Ackroyd will start her role on 7 November and will be full-time until the new year, at which point the position will be a job share, with Cunnington saying they would open recruitment for that soon. 


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