Richard Heaton takes over as Permanent Secretary at UK Cabinet Office

There’s been remarkably little press coverage of this – is there something else going on at the moment?  But earlier this week Richard Heaton was appointed Permanent Secretary of the UK's Cabinet Office. That means that Bill Crothers, the Chief Procurement Officer for Government, will report into Heaton – for the moment at least. The uncertainty comes because Cabinet Office has suggested it may still recruit a new director general for efficiency and reform, who would become the government's “chief operating officer”, reporting to Heaton, and I guess would also then be Crothers’ boss.

Richard Heaton. Cool dude.

Anyway, back to Heaton. You know, it's a really bad sign when the first thing you think on seeing the announcement, and the picture, is "my goodness, he looks young". I believe he’s actually 46-ish, which is not out of line for Permanent Secretaries these days.

He also looks pretty cool, with his tasteful facial hair - he could be a successful private equity manager, MD of a growing software firm or even creative director for the National Theatre. And indeed, his LinkedIn entry lists “Contemporary Art and the art market in the UK and India” under interests, so clearly an artistic steak there. Perhaps if we have our next Spend Matters event at the Tate Modern I can get him along.

In fact, he was the top lawyer at the Department of Work and Pensions, then First Parliamentary Council, so he was already at Permanent Secretary grade within the Cabinet Office. He is keeping his previous job as well, so I’m not clear whether there was a competition for this overall Perm Sec job – perhaps not, if it was seen as a simple combination of two jobs into one.

And while I applaud the cost saving of eliminating a Perm Sec post, it is perhaps a little worrying in terms of how much time Heaton is going to have to dedicate to driving procurement forward. Even someone as experienced and capable as Bill Crothers will need a bit of Permanent Secretary level support at times - will he get it from someone who already, one would assume, has a pretty busy full-time job? On the other hand, I have heard positive comments about him and believe he was a good supporter of procurement when he was at DWP, so that bodes well.

We'll see anyway, but we wish him good luck and look forward to seeing what he will bring to the public procurement improvement party.


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  1. Final Furlong:

    “…Even someone as experienced and capable as Bill Crothers…”

    I get the ‘capable’ bit (am sure he’s very capable) but am assuming that ‘experience’ refers to his ‘broad senior business experience’ gleaned from his years in CRM, than procurement and supply chain.

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