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JStephens
Jonathan Stephens

Farewell to a department that 'inspires and excites'

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) has just moved offices – from the far end of Whitehall to the heart of Whitehall, now sharing offices with the Treasury, Cabinet Office and other key departments. That saves us £2million a year while bringing us closer to the heart of Government.

And that’s especially fitting, I think, because it mirrors how I’ve seen the Department move centre stage over my almost seven years as Permanent Secretary at DCMS. As the longest-serving Permanent Secretary in the Department since it was established in 1992, I’ve now decided that it is the right time for me to move on. So I’ll be doing so this summer, at the end of July. I am looking at a number of interesting possibilities for what I will do next, but wanted to give time for a smooth transition to my successor.

A year to remember

The last 12 months capture the huge public impact of what DCMS does. A year ago, the torch relay was beginning and the Diamond Jubilee was just coming to its height. What felt like three months of continuous rain had started, before unveiling a fantastic summer. It was a summer which excited and inspired a generation, but also had real, hard-edged, impact in terms of economic growth and sports participation.

Jonathan Stephens

But I am in no doubt that this public success was built on the commitment, hard work and professionalism of the civil servants working in what is one of Whitehall’s smaller departments.

Much of what they do is behind the scenes, but without their professional skills – in policy analysis, project management, financial management and much else – we would not have delivered major projects, such as the Olympics and the switchover of the whole of the UK to digital TV, on time and under budget.

And those skills and commitment are brought to today’s agenda of rolling out superfast broadband, bringing new approaches to cultural funding, boosting the numbers of young people playing sport, and bringing about equal marriage.

Model department

This incredible period of delivery has been combined with radical change in DCMS, as we continue to deliver on our commitment to halve the Department’s own budget. I’m immensely proud that civil servants have approached that challenge, not with protection of any vested interest, but a readiness to adapt and change, to look at new ways of working more flexibly and saving money. We’ve taken on much wider responsibilities but have fewer staff than we did years ago – a real demonstration of civil service delivery, change and efficiency.

I think this all shows the value of a permanent civil service – combining professional skills with core values of objectivity and impartiality, to deliver successfully for the country on major projects and policies, often stretching over the life of one government.

DCMS is a department to be valued and cherished. It deals with so much of what inspires and excites us, and defines us in the world. And the Ministers and civil servants I’ve worked with here have brought real dedication, passion and talent to the work. It’s what has made DCMS such a great place to work over the past six or more years – and will, I know, still be true for the next DCMS Permanent Secretary.


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