IfG statement on appointment of John Manzoni as Chief Executive of the Civil Service

Responding to the appointment of John Manzoni as Chief Executive of the Civil Service, Peter Riddell, Director at the Institute for Government, said:

"The appointment of John Manzoni as Chief Executive of the Civil Service offers the opportunity for a fresh start, and a new impetus to driving reform forward across Whitehall. For the new post to work, there will have to be clarity, both inside Whitehall and publicly, about his role and his relationships with both Sir Jeremy Heywood, as Head of the Civil Service and Cabinet Secretary, and with fellow permanent secretaries.

"Mr Manzoni will start with the advantage of the strong backing from both senior ministers and the civil service leadership. He combines both long private sector experience and being already known in Whitehall from his eight months as chief executive of the Major Projects Authority. Moreover, he should be under no illusions about the challenges and limitations of his new role. He will not become a chief executive in the way he was in the private sector since permanent secretaries will report to Sir Jeremy Heywood. But the new post creates the potential for stronger leadership over efficiency and reform and over key central functions such as digital transformation, commercial and property activities, skills, the management of major projects and the greater use of shared services.

"He will also chair a new corporate management board, consisting of the heads of these functional groups and the main permanent secretaries responsible for delivery, and will compile reports on the performance of departments.

"It will be crucial to his success that both senior ministers and civil service leaders translate their strong endorsement over his appointment into continuing support and the provision of resources to do his job.

"The accompanying Civil Service Reform Progress Report says that from next April, there will be a new presumption that the senior appointments below permanent secretary should be open to external candidates. Whitehall will only make the most of the skills and experience these outsiders can bring if senior civil service management actively helps them make a successful transition not just into their first role in the Civil Service but also into subsequent jobs."