Many congratulations to all those civil servants whose dedicated public service was recognised in the New Year's Honours List. The range of recipients brilliantly illustrates the great diversity and importance of the work undertaken by those in our Civil Service: from tackling ebola, to promoting equality for those with a disability, supporting local communities, and raising awareness of mental health problems.
Some have argued that civil servants get more than their fair share of honours. However, as Robin Butler, one of my predecessors, pointed out in a recent letter to The Times, it is important to recognise that the honours system was originally established precisely as a way to recognise service to the Crown.
Since those early days there has, quite rightly, been a broadening out of the system, which now extends to the achievements and service of people across the United Kingdom, whether they are directly working for the Crown or not; including sports men and women, artists, business leaders and those involved in charities.
As a result, the share of honours going to civil servants has fallen significantly, with around 10% of awards now going to those in the home Civil Service, compared to almost 40% in 1955. And each and every one of those nominated is scrutinised by an independent committee that looks to recognise outstanding service that goes above and beyond the requirements of the job.
To take just a few examples of the outstanding civil servants, at all levels of the organisation, who have been recognised:
- Linda Bateman, deputy chief caseworker in the UK Visas and Immigration team at the Home Office, was awarded an MBE for public service and her work with Supportive Treatment of Migrants in the UK
- four civil servants at Grade 6 and 7 (including Edward Davis and Kate Foster from DFID) were made OBEs for their services in support of the UK’s response to the ebola crisis in West Africa
- Saravanamuttu Mylvaganam, an HEO at BIS, was awarded an MBE for public service and services to the Tamil community in the UK and Sri Lanka
- Cedric Moon, in the Welsh Government, received an MBE for services to equality and voluntary service to the deaf community in South Wales
- SEO Lisa Towers and Grade 6 Elizabeth Versi, both from the Home Office and co-founders of mental health charity Break the Stigma, were awarded the British Empire Medal for services to mental health awareness
Among the leadership of the Civil Service, Robert Devereux, Permanent Secretary at DWP, was awarded a knighthood. Robert has supported record numbers of people into work and ensured delivery of the largest programme of welfare reform in a generation. He has volunteered in his local community for over 40 years and is on the management board of two charities. And Lin Homer, who has a track record in taking on some of the toughest and highest-profile jobs in government, received a damehood. As Chief Executive of HMRC, she has transformed the department into one of the most efficient and effective across government. She also supports the Alzheimer’s Society, the Business Disability Forum and the Speakers for Schools initiative.
So, as we gear up for another year of hard work, let's put the focus back where it should be - on the fantastic public service given by civil servants up and down the country. As Her Majesty The Queen said on her recent visit to the Home Office:
“Occasionally, it is right that we pause to recognise the vital work being done every day throughout the United Kingdom in the name of public service.”
I could not agree more.