Civil service top dog Manzoni to leave government

As Cabinet Office perm sec, departing CEO oversaw digital transformation agenda

Credit: Cabinet Office

Sir John Manzoni, the permanent secretary of the Cabinet Office and the chief executive of the civil service, is to leave his role later this year.

Manzoni has been chief executive of the civil service since October 2014, and added the post of Cabinet Office permanent secretary in August 2015. In this role, he has oversight of agencies including the Government Digital Service and Crown Commercial Service.

His five-year tenure as Whitehall CEO was due to end last year, but was extended last autumn to provide continuity for the following months, according to the Cabinet Office.

During his time in government, Manzoni has often spoken of the important role played by digital and data in delivering transformation and breaking the barriers to cross-departmental collaboration.

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“We are in a transformation journey across government; we have done a lot, but there is lots more to do,” he said in 2017. “Transformation is at the heart of the changes we are trying to put in place. It means breaking down siloes and working more collaboratively, with a more focused approach to sharing data – both within government and with the outside world.”

The following year he told civil servants that robotics and automation technologies were tools they should “embrace, rather than fear”.

He returned to the theme of breaking siloes at GDS’s annual Sprint event in September 2019, when he described the need to deliver EU exit as an “enormous opportunity” to break through Whitehall divisions and promote collaboration.

The soon-to-depart chief has also praised the digital agency’s response to Brexit.

During a 2018 visit to GDS headquarters he said: “To deliver EU exit, GDS has risen to the challenge. [I see] an organisation buzzing with ideas, not afraid to break the mould, and working hard to deliver a real difference to the way government works.”

Manzoni has implemented a number of reforms, most notably developing the functional model across government. This has been intended to develop the skills available in government across key areas: finance, analysis, legal, digital, commercial, property, communications, project delivery and human resources.

His departure comes amid rumours of a planned wide-ranging revamp of the machinery of government, which reports suggest could include a shake-up of departments and a series of changes being proposed by Dominic Cummings, the prime minister’s most senior adviser.


Sam Trendall

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