Congratulations to Ian Watmore as the UK reshuffles top civil servants

Sir Gus O'Donnell - GOD to his friends - has announced his retirement from the top job in the UK civil service, provoking a bit of a structural change. He had, in effect, three separate roles, and they are now being allocated to 3 different managers.

Jeremy Heywood takes on the role of the Prime Minster and Cabinet's top civil service adviser, as Cabinet Secretary; a mandarin yet to be chosen will become the professional head of the civil service; and Ian Watmore becomes Permanent Secretary of the Cabinet Office.

As the announcement points out, since the 2010 election the Cabinet Office has become much more powerful and taken on additional responsibility, so actually running that is now much more than just an "add-on" to the traditional Cabinet Secretary role.

Ian Watmore was already running the Efficiency and Reform Group (ERG), a fair chunk of the total Cabinet Office scope, and in that role of course was responsible for the Whitehall procurement initiatives we cover regularly, with John Collington, Government CPO, reporting to him.

Watmore was already at Permanent Secretary level, so it's not a formal promotion - but it's a bigger job, so congratulations to him. What will it mean to the procurement work? Not a lot, I suspect, although there may be a concern that with Watmore's attention spread more thinly, some Departments may feel like pushing back further on aspects of the Cabinet Office role that they don't always like - having to get approval for new IT or consulting projects for instance.

Will he be replaced as Head of ERG? Not at Permanent Secretary level I suspect, but it may mean  consolidation of reporting lines so he doesn't have an unmanageable number of direct reports. So John Collington might even end up with a bigger role as one of Watmore's senior level reports (as an SCS3 rather than an SCS2).

And bailing out of the dysfunctional Football Association pretty damn quickly in early 2010 looks in retrospect like a good career move from Watmore, as he goes from strength to strength back in Government!

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