Government Digital Service on the hunt for Head of EU Exit


The Government Digital Service (GDS) has said that the Head of EU Exit will lead on the coordination of the digital function to respond to Brexit.

The Government Digital Service (GDS) is advertising for a new deputy director position, which will lead the department’s response to Brexit. The successful candidate will receive a salary of up to £117,800 and manage a central team relating to EU Exit matters.

GDS has said that Brexit could be a ‘huge opportunity’, given the potential for new systems to be built as the UK separates itself from the EU trading bloc.

However, as we at diginomica/government have noted over previous months, the challenge of Brexit from a systems, data and technology perspective is huge. Some departments have a significant chunk of their systems hosted in the EU, HMRC is grappling with the challenge of a new customs system that needs to be built, and business is concerned about the data sharing challenges it will face come March 2019, when the UK officially exits the EU.

GDS potentially has a pivotal role to play in facilitating the digital strategy for departments, as they navigate the challenges of Brexit – particularly given the strict timelines and limited resources facing Whitehall.

The job advert states:

As Head of EU Exit for GDS, you’ll lead on the coordination of the digital function to respond to the UK’s exit from the European Union. The digital function is comprised of over 17,000 professionals working in digital, data and technology across government and is headquartered within GDS.

Setting the direction for cross-functional, multi-disciplinary teams of policy-makers, technologists and digital experts this is a pivotal and cross cutting role for GDS. You will be a key member of the SCS leadership team, with direct line management responsibility for GDS’s EU Exit Secretariat, a small coordination function but with significant leadership responsibility to coordinate and set direction of the work of deputy directors within GDS and across government.

You will play a central role in implementing the Government’s priorities for delivery of EU Exit, in a way that supports the Government Transformation Strategy and digital/data manifesto commitments.

The role

The job description for the role – which is officially titled Deputy Director, EU Exit – states that the successful candidate will work with colleagues and the director team to shape GDS’s policy and broader response to the demands that EU exit places on departmental programmes and plans.

The person will also have to play a proactive role in forging strong links with other key teams in the centre of government, particularly the Infrastructure and Projects Authority, as well as other experts in the Cabinet Office and HM Treasury spend team.

Externally, the Head of EU Exit will represent GDS in its interactions across other functions, the wider Cabinet Office, as well as the Department for Exiting the European Union. The ad states:

You will lead (or directly support) interactions with the Chief Executive of the Civil Service, the Head of the Civil Service as well as departmental permanent secretaries. You will develop close working relationships with leaders across Government to translate their priorities into action.

Working with the broadest range of government and external advisers, you’ll develop the insight and networks needed for the UK to successfully leave the European Union and to firmly embed digital government in the post-EU era.

Commenting on the job vacancy, director general of GDS, Kevin Cunnington, said:

We have done some amazing work over the past few years. We are leading the digital transformation of government, making public services simpler, clearer and faster to use.

I have been inspired by the team here. But we’ve only just started. The potential to shape our society’s future is enormous and our purpose is to continue to deliver real, meaningful change for users; and make government work better for everyone.

Main responsibilities

GDS has listed that the successful candidate’s main responsibilities will include:

  • Lead the GDS EU Exit team. They will lead and manage a central GDS team on matters related to EU Exit. The person in question will grow the team and build its profile, ensuring its purpose is clear to all of GDS, acting upon feedback and building capability across the organisation.
  • Develop an expert understanding of departmental EU exit and transformation-related activities and champion these in the delivery of the EU Exit transformation activity. Work collaboratively across departments to prioritise, plan and identify new actions to successfully exit the European Union. They will proactively engage with senior stakeholders across government, balancing the need for short-term solutions for day 1 exit with longer-term strategic considerations. This will include identifying and bringing together the resources needed to promote the right culture and processes for supporting successful EU Exit related transformation, including influencing Permanent Secretaries and heads of the wider professions across government.
  • Support the definition of longer-term strategy for transformation of government services, aligning the imperative for day 1 EU exit with longer term operating models to ensure sustainable success. The successful candidate will balance the differing needs of short-term EU Exit priorities with the direction of travel set out in the Government Transformation Strategy, ensuring that departmental actions to deliver a smooth EU Exit do not close off longer-term transformational opportunities, in particular clearly articulating the risk and reward of different approaches – and their associated trade-offs- to senior officials and ministers.
  • Get buy in from across government – particularly DExEU, functions and departments. The candidate will support their team to widen and deepen their role in joining up the different functions to ensure a coordinated approach to EU Exit from the Centre, ensuring alignment with Treasury requirements and CO Ministers’ priorities. More widely, ensure that the networks they create help GDS in its mission to join up the centre of government and improve the chances of success for major government programmes. Your team will develop and maintain excellent relationships with the Department for Exiting the European Union, HMT spending teams and departments to influence and support their approach to digital in leaving the EU, and in ensuring that digital and policy questions are answered in the round as soon as possible.

Closing date for applications is 22nd January 2018 and the job will be a 2 year fixed contract. GDS aims to create a shortlist by 25th January 2018, with interviews commencing 12th February.

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