The department’s perm sec on a year of change
Credit: Louise Haywood-Schiefer
The annual perm secs round-up published by PublicTechnology sister publication Civil Service World sees Whitehall’s senior leaders open up on their biggest challenges and opportunities – as well as their plans for Christmas. Here Sue Owen, permanent secretary of the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport shares her thoughts.
What are you most proud of achieving in 2017?
DCMS celebrated our 25th anniversary this year, adding “digital” to our name: DCMS now means Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. By taking on new responsibilities, we’ve doubled in size since 2013 – half of our staff now work on digital and media policy, so it’s fantastic to recognise that in our name. Other highlights for me include the Battle of Passchendaele centenary commemorations, launching the new Civil Service Diversity and Inclusion Strategy, publishing the internet strategy, museums and gambling reviews and being on target to reach 95% superfast broadband coverage.
What was your most difficult decision in 2017?
We’ve had to bolster our policy and corporate teams significantly to manage EU exit work on top of normal business. Unlike very large departments, there’s a limit to what we can absorb within existing numbers. So the hardest decision for me was agreeing to recruit staff at risk to get people in quickly for EU exit work. Fortunately, we’ve negotiated the additional funding needed from HM Treasury, so it was the right decision!
What are your department’s top priorities in the year ahead?
There’s always so much going on and it all feels top priority! Some of the big ones for DCMS have to be our continuing work on EU exit, getting the data bill through, the Great Exhibition of the North, ensuring the smooth transition of the National Citizen Service into a charter body and getting enough desks for people to do all this from.
For you, no Christmas holiday is complete without…
Christmas cards, organised by theme – geese in kitchen, Santas in the family room, artsy ones in the hall, etc. My lovely Dad always did this and I’ve followed his tradition since he died. The trouble is you must wait till Christmas Eve when all the cards have arrived to group them into themes. So I display last year’s cards, putting them up mid-December. Then we get to open this year’s cards after Christmas when we have lots of time to appreciate them.