Exclusive! Bill Crothers, UK Government’s Chief Commercial Officer to Stand Down

12 noon update - Cabinet Office statement now out: "Bill Crothers has decided that it is the right time to move to the next stage of his career, and for someone new to take commercial reform in government forward. Bill led the work on commercial reform across government and set an ambitious strategy for the future. Bill’s expertise will not be lost altogether; he will continue as a commercial advisor to help us improve our commercial capability and advise on our most complex deals. Over time, Bill will also take on some similar advisory roles in the private sector... Bill will remain as Government Chief Commercial Officer for the transition and help to recruit his successor. Recruitment for this role will begin immediately."


Bill Crothers, the Government's Chief Commercial Officer, based in the Cabinet Office, has announced that he is standing down from his role. We understand he is going to continue for a short period in a part-time capacity to finish working on some major projects (possibly specific negotiations, we suspect), then he's off.

As the news was spread by eager urchins and news vendors the length of Whitehall and as far afield as government facilities in Warrington and Washington (Tyne and Wear), cheers were heard from the offices of a wide range of Permanent Secretaries, procurement directors and pretty much every supplier to government.

Of course, the speculation started immediately in terms of whether he wanted to go or whether he was pushed. If we go back a few months, many of us thought he would go at election time, particularly with his sponsor, Francis Maude, moving out of the Ministerial role. Crothers took the Chief Procurement Officer role in May 2012, which morphed into the Chief Commercial Officer job in 2014, so three years or so in post at election time would have been a decent stint.

But the fact he did not stand down then, and some remarks he made, led us to wonder if he intended to stay for a few years longer. Joking aside, he did make many enemies within Whitehall and beyond, and with Maude going, it may be that the knives got sharper and more directed. He had Matt Hancock to deal with as Minister, who seems a more considered character than Maude and may not have appreciated the confrontational Crothers style.

John Manzoni must also have been in the picture, as the government CEO and Cabinet Office Permanent Secretary as well - so Crothers' boss, we assume. We featured some interesting comments he made recently here, which seemed to suggest he might not be the greatest fan of the "centralise everything" strategy that Crothers favoured. Or of course it is quite possible Crothers may have just decided the time was right to go and enjoy his Accenture millions.

We will have a look back at his government career next week, and also start the traditional Spend Matters wild speculation as we ask - who will replace him (if anybody) as Chief Commercial Officer? We already hear rumours that David Smith has booked a haircut for the weekend and is desperately trying to remember what “ITT” stands for!

(Given this news, we’ll save our next article on the CCS Annual Report till tomorrow).

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Voices (5)

  1. Paul Howard:

    It’s interesting that over the last 12 months, Bill had ‘divorced’ himself away from CCS and seemed to want to focus on building a small central team concentrating on influencing Perm Secs and Ministers around Commercial matters. That way, if CCS failed spectacularly, he was ideally positioned to deflect any blame and possibly find another solution to fix it, so I am intrigued by his decision to go now – like you say Peter, it looked as though he was set for the long term. I’ll watch with interest from 12,000 miles away, where our own NZ GPS is heavily modelled on OGC (rather than CCS) and see whether we follow the same path as the UK.

  2. Dan:

    Do you think that the replacement will be a proper procurement person with some form of qualification such as CIPS? Or will they just go back down the route of appointing an ex-consultant on the grounds that they have sufficient ‘commercial’ expertise, whatever that is?

    1. Peter Smith:

      the answers to your questions I fear are “no” and “yes”!But I will be starting the betting on the replacement next week – look out for “Paddy Peter’s” special offer on unbeatable odds!

  3. Final Furlong:

    I’m lost for words (for once)

  4. Secret Squirrel:

    Well, that’s got things even more interesting.

    Now there’s no one left who actually created the monstrosity with Kelly and Crothers both gone. Perhaps time for some sanity and for the cull to begin.

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