GDS seeks candidate from within civil service to lead GOV.UK

Written by Sam Trendall on 25 June 2021 in News

Successful applicant will be appointed to nine-month contract

Credit: Crown Copyright/Open Government Licence v3.0

A new leader for government’s GOV.UK digital infrastructure is being sought. As the Government Digital Service considers a wider restructure of its senior team, the GOV.UK leadership post comes with only an initial nine-month contract and, to expedite the hiring process, applications are open only to existing civil servants.

The vacancy is being created by the departure of Jen Allum, who is calling time on a five-year stint at GDS to take on a US-based role at X, a research and development sister company of Google, the stated aim of which is to “create radical new technologies to solve some of the world’s hardest problems”.

Her replacement as director of GOV.UK – who will paid between £93,000 and £110,000 a year – will join GDS at a time when the organisation is in the early stages of taking on a new strategy and role. The creation of another unit in the Cabinet Office, the Central Digital and Data Office, has seen functions including standards, spending controls, and accessibility moved from GDS to the new entity. About 100 staff have moved between the two organisations as a result.

Going forward, the remit of GDS will be to focus on the creation and delivery of tools and platforms for use across government – most notably GOV.UK Accounts which, once ready, will provide a single online services login for use throughout all departments. 

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Along with its changing responsibilities, GDS is also understood to be planning a revamp of its senior management roles and structure – a key reason why the GOV.UK leadership role comes with no more than a nine-month contract.

As a director-level position, the appointment requires oversight from a civil service commissioner – a process that, in normal circumstances, could take up to several months.

It is understood that the decision to limit applications to existing civil servants was taken in order to expedite the hiring process – which also has a comparatively short window, closing on 7 July. 

A full recruitment procedure for this post – and other senior roles – is planned to begin later this year, once decisions about restructuring of the senior team have been taken. 

In the meantime, an interim appointment is sought for what the job advert described as “an influential role requiring visible, persuasive and passionate leadership across government to maintain and create high standards for content publishing and service design”. 

The advert added: “At present, a major focus of this role is supporting cross-government efforts to ensure the public is informed about the government’s response to Covid-19 and how EU Exit will impact them. You will play a key role working alongside communications professionals to understand and meet user needs.”

The role will come with a responsibility to “own and iterate the long-term vision and strategy for GOV.UK’s platform and content”, as well as “integrating new products, platforms and services seamlessly” into the digital infrastructure.

The successful candidate will be expected to work at least two days a week in GDS offices in either London or Manchester. They will report into chief executive Tom Read and oversee the work of 200 people.

This will comprise GDS’s “central content and service design teams – curating and managing the top 1% of content and journeys to services”.

The job advert added: “The ideal candidate would be a creative, strategic leader who can think on their feet, solve problems, and build and maintain relationships. Our strategy for GDS reaffirms GOV.UK as the single trusted source of government information for the public. It underpins our ambitions to provide personalised and joined up information, services and guidance for citizens. As director of GOV.UK you will play a key role in helping us to deliver on this mission.”


About the author

Sam Trendall is editor of PublicTechnology


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