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Cabinet Secretary announces retirement

Cabinet Secretary Sir Gus O'Donnell has today announced his retirement.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Following the Cabinet Secretary, Sir Gus O’Donnell’s announcement today of his retirement, the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister have thanked him for his enormous contribution to the Civil Service, and announced that they will be restructuring the top job.

Sir Gus O’Donnell will leave the Civil Service at the end of the year after 32 years of public service, including six years as Cabinet Secretary and three years as Permanent Secretary to the Treasury.  He will retire at the end of December.  In recognition of his distinguished service to public life, the Prime Minister has nominated Sir Gus O’Donnell for a life peerage. 

Jeremy Heywood, currently Permanent Secretary at No. 10, will replace Gus O’Donnell as Cabinet Secretary.  At a time of significant change for the Civil Service, the role of Head of the Civil Service will be separated out from the Cabinet Secretary role.

Sir Gus O’Donnell said today:

It has been a great privilege to work closely with four Prime Ministers and to work with the current Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister in support of a Coalition Government. I am also very proud of the great work civil servants perform up and down the country and overseas. I am passionate about the importance of our traditional values of honesty, objectivity, integrity and impartiality. I am also confident that the Civil Service will demonstrate the professionalism and pace to face the challenges of delivering better services with fewer resources. I wish Jeremy every success in his new role.

Jeremy Heywood said:

It is great personal honour for me to be asked by the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister to take on this new role. Building on Gus’s tremendous leadership over the last six years, and working closely with the new Head of the Civil Service and Ian Watmore, I shall do everything in my power to ensure that the finest Civil Service in the world continues to support the government of the day with dynamism, energy and fearless integrity and impartiality.

The Prime Minister said:

Sir Gus O’Donnell has been the outstanding civil servant of his generation, and I would like to thank him for his enormous personal contribution as Cabinet Secretary.  His support during the formation of the Coalition Government, and in ensuring the smooth and effective running of Cabinet Government since I took office, has been invaluable.  He has given dedicated and professional service under five Prime Ministers, the last four of whom he has worked with very closely.  I know that they will join me in thanking him for all his hard work, patience, loyalty, good humour and sound judgement.  The strength and impartiality of the Civil Service in the UK is rightly admired around the world and something we should be proud of.  Gus O’Donnell’s career reflects the strengths of the Civil Service, and his leadership has helped to safeguard it for the future.

And the Deputy Prime Minister said:

Sir Gus O’Donnell has served this country with distinction.  Uniquely among recent Cabinet Secretaries he has transformed Whitehall to serve a coalition for the first time since the Second World War.  As Deputy Prime Minister, I have been hugely grateful for his wise counsel and leadership of the Civil Service through this immense period of change.  Through his distinguished career he has epitomised the best values of the British Civil Service: impartial, honest, objective and full of integrity.  I wish him a very happy retirement.

The Cabinet Secretary will continue to be the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister’s most senior policy adviser and to act as Secretary to the Cabinet, responsible to all Ministers for the running of Cabinet Government.  The Head of the Civil Service will be responsible for providing professional and corporate leadership to the Civil Service, combining this role with his or her existing departmental role.  Both roles will report directly to the Prime Minister.

The Cabinet Office has expanded and taken on new responsibilities since the election, including cutting costs and driving efficiency across government.  It will be led by a dedicated Permanent Secretary, who will report to the Minister for the Cabinet Office and support the Head of the Civil Service on all Civil Service management roles. Ian Watmore, currently head of the Cabinet Office’s Efficiency and Reform Group, will take on the role.

The Prime Minister has asked Sir David Normington, First Civil Service Commissioner, to launch an internal Whitehall competition to recruit a Head of the Civil Service.  The outcome of that process will be announced in due course.

Published 11 October 2011