No move for GDS and CDDO as part of Cabinet Office split

Written by Beckie Smith and Sam Trendall on 24 May 2022 in News

Chunks of central department will move to Downing Street, but digital agencies are to remain part of new-look ‘corporate HQ’ of government

Credit: Gordon Hatton/CC BY-SA 2.0

The Cabinet Office is to split, with chunks of the organisation transferring to a department for the prime minister – but government’s central digital agencies will remain in place as part of the new-look “corporate headquarters” of Whitehall.

As first reported by The Times, civil service leaders have confirmed that Downing Street is to take charge of economic, domestic, national security and intelligence policy, with officials working in those areas reporting to No.10 permanent secretary Samantha Jones.

The Cabinet Office, meanwhile, will serve as a “corporate headquarters” for the civil service and oversee ongoing reform, under the leadership of permanent secretary Alex Chisholm.

PublicTechnology understands that, as part of this remit, the Cabinet Office and Chisholm will also retain leadership of the Government Digital Service and the Central Digital and Data Office – as well as government procurement agency Crown Commercial Service.

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The move appears to be the result of attempts to overhaul the No.10 operation, which Cabinet Office second permanent secretary Sue Gray called "fragmented and complicated" in the initial findings of her Partygate inquiry in January.

Gray’s full report is expected to be published next week ahead of parliament’s summer recess, now that the Met Police has concluded its investigation into Covid regulation-breaching gatherings at No.10 and in Whitehall during the pandemic.

The move also follows the appointment of Cabinet Office minister Steve Barclay to a second role as the prime minister’s chief of staff in February.

The PM’s department will have a mission to “enhance the support that is offered to the prime minister and the cabinet, ensuring the capabilities required by the nerve centre of a modern government are staffed and deployed in the right way, streamlining interactions with departments, and modernising the operation of our system of cabinet government”, according to an email from Jones, Chisholm and cabinet secretary Simon Case that was sent to officials last week – and leaked to The Times.

“Through this change we will deliver some immediate benefits: dedicated leadership, clearer accountability and greater focus on the two halves’ respective missions,” they said.

The change is also partially a result of plans to cut the civil service headcount by 91,000, they acknowledged.

In a statement, a government spokesperson added: “As we set out earlier in the year, steps are being taken to further strengthen the operation of both No 10 and the Cabinet Office so they are best placed to deliver for the public now and in the future. Work to deliver these plans is ongoing.”


About the author

Beckie Smith is deputy editor for PublicTechnlogy sister publication Civil Service World, where a version of this story first appeared. She tweets as @beckie__smith.

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