Monday 13 August 2012

Home Office soon to be Ghoshless

Home Office press release, 13 August 2012:
Dame Helen Ghosh to leave civil service
Dame Helen Ghosh DCB is to step down as Permanent Secretary of the Home Office to take up the role of Director General of the National Trust, she announced today.

Dame Helen will leave the department in September after a 33 year career in the civil service ...

Head of the Civil Service Sir Bob Kerslake said: 'As Permanent Secretary at Defra and the Home Office, Helen has delivered extraordinary change including departmental reform, the independent UK Border Force and support for the successful London Olympics.

'She has been an inspiring leader, who has made a very strong corporate contribution, both via the Civil Service Board, leading the capability strand of our Civil Service Reform Programme and as a vibrant role model and champion of talent and diversity. I wish her every success in her new leadership role at the National Trust.'

Helen Kilpatrick, Director General of the Financial and Commercial Group, will stand in as interim Permanent Secretary until a replacement for Helen Ghosh is appointed.
National Trust press release, 13 August 2012:
Dame Helen Ghosh DCB will be the next Director-General of the National Trust
... She will take over from Fiona Reynolds who has been at the helm for nearly 12 years ...

Fiona Reynolds ... moves on to become Master of Emmanuel College, Cambridge in 2013 ...
Emmanuel College past events, 6 March 2012:
London Drinks
Café Koha in London’s Leicester Square once again played host to informal drinks on the evening of Tuesday 6th March ...

The timing of the event meant that members were able to mark the sad passing of Lord St. John of Fawsley (which meant a wealth of affectionate anecdotes about his time as Master) and also celebrate the news from earlier in the day of the appointment of Dame Fiona Reynolds as our next Master.
Emmanuel can give six months notice of the Master's successor. The National Trust can give six weeks notice of the Director-General's successor. That is orderly and proper. The Home Office can't tell us who Dame Helen's successor will be, six weeks or so before she leaves. That looks messy – lessons there for Sir Bob from Emma and the NT.

Dame Helen's move could hardly be announced before the Olympics were over. They didn't exactly wait for long after the closing ceremony, though, did they.

The Sunday Times told us on 15 July 2012:
Originally, it was decided that 10,000 guards, including any military contingent, would be required on peak days. By December, that figure was revised up to 23,700 with G4S providing 13,700 trained guards, including 3,300 students.

Dame Helen Ghosh, the Home Office permanent secretary, admitted last December that the initial estimate had been a “finger in the air” estimate, based on information from the 2002 Commonwealth Games in Manchester and the 2006 Winter Olympic Games in Turin.
That finger in the air was Sir David Normington's, Dame Helen's slippery predecessor. He left her a mess. She didn't sort it out and the army had to be called in at undignified short notice.

The independent UK Border Force, for the creation of which Sir Bob praises Dame Helen, was the clumsy response to an absolute fiasco – the Brodie Clark affair.

Dame Helen will find it very different working with the great Simon Jenkins at the National Trust after decades of more or less biddable ministers.

Who called the shots in what looks like Dame Helen's ejection? Ministers? Maybe. Sir Bob Kerslake? Sir Jeremy Heywood? Maybe. Considerable power lies with the suppliers these days, IBM, CapGemini, HP, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, Fujitsu, CSC, Atos and suchlike. Did they want her out? Was she standing up to them? Will we miss her as a result? None of us on the outside has a clue what's going on. We are left making convoluted surmises like this because so much of Whitehall is cloaked in secrecy. That is not, in the end, did they but know it, to the advantage of senior civil servants.

And for us, the public? Dame Helen's successor? We'll see. Let's hope for one who is more open with the Home Affairs Committee and, indeed, the public.


BBC Radio 4, Profile: Dame Helen Ghosh


Mark Benney said...

The NT DG job seems to have been advertised in May and it appears to carry a higher salary than the Permanent Secretary job at the HO. Perhaps Dame Helen simply craved a quieter life in tranquil Wiltshire.

At the same time, she was not popular at Defra and received a number of drubbings by the Defra Select Committee. The PCS is currently openly attacking her over the recent "phantom jobs" fiasco, so maybe there is more to this than meets the eye.

Many thought she wanted Bob Kerslake's job, although she refused to admit to having applied, and the remaining Perm Sec job at the Cabinet Office was recently filled.

David Moss said...

A pleasure to hear from you again, Mr Benney.

Dame Helen may be leaving Whitehall because she didn't get the top job and because of the attractions of Wiltshire. In that case, since May, the ground could have been prepared and a successor named in her resignation notice. As it is, her departure looks precipitate.

This Richard Heaton who replaces Ian Watmore -- any chance, do you think, that he can stop the Gadarene lemmings at G-Cloud and GDS?

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