Perm sec Healey reflects on ‘a year of change’ for DCMS

Sarah Healey looks ahead to a busy 2020 of digital and sporting activities

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 remembrances of Christmases past. The Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport has grown rapidly in recent years and, according to permanent secretary Sarah Healey, has another busy 12 months ahead.

What was your highlight of 2019?
Obviously, becoming permanent secretary at DCMS in April! I loved working here from 2013 to 2016 and it’s a privilege now to lead the department. I obviously miss all my colleagues from DExEU and Cabinet Office but it’s been brilliant starting to get to grips with what’s needed here.

What has been the most significant change in your organisation this year?
Well, by the end of the year DCMS will have had three secretaries of state, two permanent secretaries, and two new directors general, so it’s been quite a year of change!

What will be the biggest challenge of 2020 – and how are you preparing to meet it?
We are likely to have some big delivery challenges during 2020, for example accelerating improvements to digital infrastructure but also ongoing delivery of the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham in 2022. However, from my perspective, DCMS has grown very fast as a department over the last couple of years and is more important now than ever – so the real challenge from me and the department in 2020 is to embrace all the consequences of that growth and make the most of the impact we can have while nurturing the department’s culture at its best – warm, inclusive and informal.

Tell us a favourite festive memory from your youth…
I absolutely love Christmas – it has everything that I like best: family, friends, food, wine, parties and an excuse to dress up. Nothing gives me greater happiness than to have lots of people for Christmas lunch, which I now have down to such a fine art that there is plenty of time for fizz and hanging out in the kitchen, listening to Pink Martini’s Joy to the World (my favourite Christmas album) and chatting. But nothing beats the excitement of being a kid and going to bed on Christmas Eve with an empty stocking at the end of the bed. When I had children my mum’s advice to me was that it would be much easier for Father Christmas if we established a tradition of leaving stockings downstairs! 


Sam Trendall

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