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Civil Service

This blog post was published under the 2015-2024 Conservative Administration

Leaving the Civil Service – Clare Moriarty

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: A Brilliant Civil Service, Civil Service Leaders
Head and shoulders image of Clare Moriarty
Clare Moriarty

I joined the Civil Service back in 1985 with a relatively short-term horizon, choosing the Fast Stream over other public service options because it offered variety, responsibility and an opportunity to work on stuff that really mattered. It delivered in spades, with early involvement in drafting White Papers, developing financial monitoring systems, delivering international conferences and leading major change programmes.

I stayed – far longer than I expected – because the Civil Service is an amazing institution. Dedicated to serving the government of the day, made up of people who get up in the morning to make the world a better place and work long and hard to deliver for citizens and communities. During my career I’ve seen the Civil Service constantly changing and evolving as we have professionalised our functions, adopted structured approaches to project delivery and embraced digital transformation.

And, close to my heart, we’ve thought increasingly deeply about what it means to lead in the Civil Service.  That’s a question that’s preoccupied me for the last 15 years, since my days as Constitution Director. I learnt then that the leader doesn’t have to have all the answers, but does need to be single-mindedly focused on making it possible for others to do their best work. That necessarily requires diverse teams in which people feel heard, respected for who they are and valued for the perspectives that they bring.  

Those insights shaped my practice as a director general in the Department for Transport and, latterly, as Permanent Secretary of two brilliant departments, Defra and DExEU.  I couldn’t be more proud of the teams I’ve worked with. It’s been a privilege to support the development of leaders in all three departments, in my senior teams and throughout the organisation, seeking out and giving encouragement to people who see opportunities to change things for the better.

In my cross-government roles I’ve also had the pleasure of working with imaginative and committed teams on faith and belief, leadership and talent, and Civil Service Local in Yorkshire, Humber and the North East. I’m particularly proud of the work we have done in the Leadership & Talent Board to distil the experience of fantastic leaders in the Civil Service, at every level, into a simple description that will be of practical use to people. 

For me, the last few years have been about leadership and Brexit – getting stuff done, and helping to shape and grow the Civil Service for its future role. Defra grew hugely in size and also in capability, developing project delivery muscles and finding new ways to work through uncertainty while developing a reputation as a department where people care. DExEU was a young, vibrant, try-anything department: a project in itself, the ultimate task-and-finish group, and 31 January for us marked not just the UK’s departure from the EU but also the conclusion of our work as a department.

Closing a government department is an unusual and emotional process, inevitably prompting reflection, and marks the closing of a chapter for me. The last year has included breast cancer as well as Brexit, and I’m looking forward to the opportunity to recharge my batteries and reflect on how I can put all my experience gained in the Civil Service to good use. I’ve been a civil servant all my career, a change-maker all my life, so I can’t help being energised by the thought of making a difference somewhere, but I will hugely miss the Civil Service.

My greatest fulfilment in the last few years has come from nurturing future generations of Civil Service leaders, and I feel very confident in the strength of the pipeline. The Civil Service needs leaders who are kind, inclusive, rigorous, creative, innovative, empathetic, respectful and self-aware. I know you are out there. I’ve met you in cohorts that I’ve sponsored, from the early days of the Future Leaders Scheme to the new DG development programme; in groups I’ve talked to, from the Individual Development Programme to immersive learning events; in self-organising initiatives, from the Directors’ Network to the fabulous One Team Gov; and in conversation in meetings, town halls, lifts and via Twitter. You are leaders at every level and you will continue to make the UK Civil Service the best there is.

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  1. Comment by Nicola posted on

    Thank you for all you did for Defra. I always looked forward to reading your blogs, as they were friendly, people centred and inclusive. You were a breath of fresh air and I hope your legacy will continue.

  2. Comment by Rob Neil posted on

    Missing you already [too much and especially now]!!!!

  3. Comment by Shuhab Hamid posted on

    Great blog Clare...its not time for me to leave the CS yet, just hit my 10 yr anniversary last month...

  4. Comment by Junier Browne MBE posted on

    Your diversity, equality, inclusion legacy and commitment to helping people bring their real self to work, will be felt well into the future.
    Thank you for your tireless drive to make a difference.
    Enjoy the next chapter of your life.

  5. Comment by Jan Parry posted on

    An amazing career in the Civil Service and an amazing boss in Private Office at Department of Health. Best wishes for the future Clare!

  6. Comment by Sandra Popoola posted on

    Whao, I wish I’d met you. You’re obviously an amazing person, with many of your colleagues testifying to that. Thank you for all you’ve done in the Civil Service and your legacy will surely live on. All the best for the future.

  7. Comment by Paulaner posted on

    Thank you for your years of service, particularly as the first CS Faith & Belief Champion. The Belief toolkit you pushed forward last year had an good impact, for local diversity issues, as well as Trade Union discussions. (I was disappointed that not all departments choose to have a representative on your champions network.) Your push for the 'Faith' category in the Civil Service awards was also appreciated, although in 2019 we were made anxious of submitting awards by GDPR considerations.

    Again, just to say your efforts are most appreciated even if uncommunicated, and you have our prayers and blessings of thanks and gratitude with you.

  8. Comment by Elliott Rae posted on

    Wow, this was an emotional read. Thanks so much for your leadership Clare. You are, and remain an inspiration to me. You truly showed you can be a great leader and also a kind person. All the best in your next steps and let's keep in touch via social media!!

    • Replies to Elliott Rae>

      Comment by Sunny Thompson posted on

      Thoroughly seconded.

  9. Comment by Frances Oram (nee Hulme) posted on

    I’m sad you’re leaving the civil service Clare. I have great memories of working for you when you were Constitution Director. Very best wishes for whatever you do next.

  10. Comment by Caroline posted on

    DEXEU benefitted hugely from your leadership Clare. And I still quote the leadership model you shared with us early to others that I mentor, so your legacy will continue!

  11. Comment by Genevieve Gallichan posted on

    Thank you Clare, you have and will always be a role model to women in the service and I truly appreciate all that you've done and your strong values which have never wavered. It was a pleasure to work under you at Defra and I hope to hear more about what you go on to do next because I'm sure it will be wonderful.

  12. Comment by David posted on

    Thank you Gaffer.

  13. Comment by Tola Ayoola posted on

    Love this blog and thanks for sharing your reflections Clare. We will miss your leadership and dedication to public service. You are one of the nicest people I've met and a leader I respect and values I share. Best of luck!