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Civil Service

Geared up for 2018

Head and shoulders of Jeremy Heywood
Sir Jeremy Heywood, Cabinet Secretary and Head of the Civil Service

Last month, I wrote here about the exceptional achievements of the Civil Service in 2017.

Looking forward, many of the challenges I mentioned then require an ongoing response from us in 2018. Not the least of these is supporting the Government in the next stage of planning for and negotiating our withdrawal from the EU. This challenge demanded – and got – a huge collaborative effort from all parts of the Civil Service in 2017. The Prime Minister has particularly highlighted the contribution of civil servants to furthering the process.

A similar concerted effort is necessary as we continue to make the changes in who we are, how we work, and the tools we use, that will help to make us a truly brilliant Civil Service – one that constantly innovates, anticipating and adapting to advances in technology and new trends in society.

The 'new normal'

Towards the end of December, I tweeted the top four points arising from a recent OECD conference on making innovation in government the ‘new normal’:

  • explore experimentation
  • support change champions
  • inform decisions with data
  • put the citizen at the centre

The transformation under way in the Civil Service is informed by all of these and we must take it further in 2018. I expect to be blogging about different aspects of this continuing modernisation as the year goes on.

Discussion at the conference focused on unlocking innovation by identifying and equipping ourselves with the right skills, systems, tools and technology to transform government. These are obviously vital modernising elements, but also mentioned was the importance of rebuilding organisational cultures to tackle the challenges of the modern world. The best systems and technology are only as good as the working culture and behaviours that support them. And citizens will have more faith in modern, digital public services if they are clearly responsive to the needs of all parts of society, and provided by a Civil Service that reflects society in all its diversity.

In turn, a more representative and empowering culture is essential for an organisation that wants to unleash the creative and innovating talents of its workforce.

Suffrage centenary

My own commitment to a more diverse and inclusive Civil Service is, I hope, well known and underlined by the publication last autumn of our Diversity and Inclusion Strategy. This supports the aim of making the Civil Service the UK’s most inclusive employer by 2020. We have made progress in many areas, including the representation of women in the Senior Civil Service, but are still short of where we should be, particularly in the number of women who hold positions at the higher levels.

2018 marks the centenary of women’s suffrage. The anniversary is a salutary reminder of what’s been achieved over the last hundred years in women’s equality, and of how far we still have to go.

 Before 1918, women were absent from our polling stations and could not stand as candidates for Parliament. This year we remember and celebrate the individuals who played a decisive role in securing a woman’s right to vote. The Government Equalities Office is leading the arrangement of national activities, but we want to ensure the Civil Service plays its own role in the celebrations.  

The flag of the UK women's suffrage movement

Our plans start with an event on 7 February, focusing on 100 years of women in the Civil Service and looking forward. The suffragette flag relay will be launched at this event, and will visit departmental offices throughout the UK. You will be able to track the flag’s progress on Twitter @SuffrageFlag. Before that, FCO Permanent Under-Secretary Sir Simon McDonald yesterday launched a global flag relay on Twitter. This will see the flag on a tour of different UK diplomatic posts, starting in South Africa.

Events will culminate on 14 December with as many government buildings as possible lit in the green, white and purple of the suffrage movement. When the flag comes to your building, please do get involved in the range of activities on offer so that we can all pay tribute to this powerful – and empowering – moment in our history.

In welcoming you back from what I hope was a relaxing holiday period, I want to wish everyone a successful and productive 2018.

Logo for 'A Brilliant Civil Service'I’m well aware that the New Year has already been a busy time for many of you as you prepare to work with new Ministers following the Government reshuffle - a signal of a general gearing up for the challenges ahead. There is much to do. But you can be rightly proud of what you achieved over the last 12 months, and take confidence from it – as I do – in tackling what’s to come.

Follow Sir Jeremy on Twitter: @HeadUKCivServ.

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  1. Comment by Lone Voice from Brize Norton posted on

    I agree with Dave Lewis that the blog is very conceptual in tone.
    I also think that, if you are going to experiment and innovate, you also need to test to destruction (preferably by some renegade who knows how to subvert and exploit) and make your innovations bomb-proof. The best systems in MOD have been built and amended and refined over very many years and certainly far longer than a parliamentary session.

  2. Comment by Penelope White posted on

    I understood that only certain women were given the right to vote in 1918 - i.e. they had to be over 30 and a graduate or home owner. The vote was only extended to all women over the age of 21 in 1928. This caveat did not apply to men.
    I had an elderly aunt who when working for the civil service had to leave if she married. She eventually married at the age of 75! Women are very lucky today that they do not have to make that choice. However, back in the mid 80s when I passed my EO Board. Several older 'single' women were very bitter that I was promoted over a married man. Times have certainly changed.

  3. Comment by Dave Lewis posted on

    I'm looking at the top 4 OECD conference recommendations...

    •explore experimentation
    •support change champions
    •inform decisions with data
    •put the citizen at the centre

    I'm also thinking - what on earth does this mean because they are more trendy soundbites than useful aims. I'm also wondering about how, and why, we should make "innovation in government the ‘new normal’", because once again this is just a soundbite with no substance.

    I'd like to add another aim which underpins all this nonsense but which gets overlooked every time. It is;

    •make sure you fully understand what government needs to deliver to the citizens of this country and then make sure it happens...

  4. Comment by SM posted on

    What has been apparently missed from the correct anniversary of the first women getting the vote, was the equally important first introduction of universal male suffrage. Before the 1918 Act there was a stiff property requirement and the 1918 Act increased the number of men able to vote by 60%.

  5. Comment by Sam Morgan posted on

    As well as working at the Office for National Statistics I am also a unit leader in Girlguiding. I have created a challenge badge called 'Centenary of Women's Votes'. It is designed to help girls in all units to learn about the suffragettes and suffragists and to celebrate the centenary. The badge is supported by Emmeline Pankhurst's great grand daughter Dr Helen Pankhurst. Girlguiding Cymru and Girlguiding UK are using it as their badge for the centenary and a press release with quotes from myself and my Guide daughter is scheduled for release on the centenary.

  6. Comment by Charlotte Smith posted on

    Talking of flags, why do not all Government departments have our very own British flag proudly on display, either up a flagpole or inside in the foyer or something like that? And of course on special days we can hoist up flags like the one you mentioned and the very new purple flag for Disabled peoples day and so on.

  7. Comment by GM posted on

    The 100th anniversary of women's suffrage underlines that there is indeed still a very long way to go, as evidenced by (among other things) your posting on 18 December which highlighted that the gender pay gap is still 19.4% in the public sector and 23.7% in the private sector (and it's more than 40 years since the Equal Pay Act was passed).

    • Replies to GM>

      Comment by Razors posted on

      The gender pay gap has nothing to do with Equal Pay. People are paid the same for doing the same job, without regard to gender. That’s the law.

      The gender pay gap arises because, within an organisation, jobs are not distributed evenly according to gender: Men tend to hold more senior positions, women tend to hold more part-time and ‘administrative’ positions. Therefore, the average pay for males is greater than the average pay for the organisation; the average pay for females is less than the average for the organisation. That is the gender pay gap.

      It could be reduced by employing more females in senior positions, or equally, sacking females in lower-paid jobs.

      Interestingly, the Armed Forces tend to have a negative GPG. This is due to the lower ranks being largely male, while females tend to be Officers.