New Cabinet Office head Alex Chisholm to ‘lead ongoing transformation’ of civil service

Written by Richard Johnstone on 1 April 2020 in News
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BEIS perm sec will replace John Manzoni at the head of the Cabinet Office

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Alex Chisholm, the permanent secretary of the Department of Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy, is to move to the Cabinet Office to lead a new reform programme for the civil service.

Chisholm will move to the central department to take over the responsibilities of outgoing perm sec and civil service chief executive Sir John Manzoni, who will leave later this year.

The appointment has been made by cabinet secretary Sir Mark Sedwill, with the agreement of prime minister Boris Johnson, with Sedwill saying that he has asked Chisholm to “lead the ongoing transformation of the civil service to further enhance its efficiency, effectiveness and agility, creating the high performance, innovative and digitally powered service we need for the times we are in”.

In a statement welcoming Chisholm to the role, Sedwill said: “He will also bring proven leadership skills to help guide and support the 7,000 talented staff who work across the Cabinet Office and its arm’s-length bodies.”

Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove said that, in the medium term, “much of Alex’s work will necessarily be coronavirus response related”, but he indicated that Whitehall reform would be among the other priorities.


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“Alex will be responsible for supporting ministers to develop and then drive forward a reform programme for the civil service, building on the government’s existing efficiency programme. He will also supervise all the Cabinet Office’s various work programmes including on preparing for the end of the transition period [for leaving the European Union, due to end in December], strengthening the union, and defending our democracy.”

Chisholm has been perm sec in BEIS since the department was created in September 2016, and had also been the head of the Department for Energy and Climate Change before its closure. He was chief executive of the Competition & Markets Authority from 2013 to 2016.

Chisholm said he was “truly thrilled to be asked to lead the Cabinet Office and civil service reform at this time”.

The present coronavirus emergency was a “powerful reminder of how important the work of government is to the whole country”, he added.

“I look forward to working with ministers, colleagues in the Cabinet Office, permanent secretaries across government and public service leaders, to deliver for the government and the public together.”

Manzoni’s departure was confirmed earlier this year. The exact date of his departure has not yet been set in stone, as he has agreed to stay on to support the government’s response to coronavirus over the next few months. Manzoni’s title was chief executive of the civil service, but Chisholm has been named COO.

Sedwill said that he wanted to place on record his “sincere thanks and appreciation for all that my colleague Sir John Manzoni has accomplished over the last five years in the role”.

 

About the author

Richard Johnstone is deputy and online editor of PublicTechnology sister publication Civil Service World, where this story first appeared. He tweets as @CSW_DepEd.

 

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