» Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Sir Gus O'Donnell

The Prime Minister's Spokesman (PMOS) announced to journalists that Sir Gus O'Donnell had been appointed as Cabinet Secretary, following an internal competition, handled on the advice of Sir Andrew Turnbull, as well as input, as was normal from the first Civil Service Commissioner. The Prime Minister had agreed the shortlist, as recommended by Sir Andrew, which was Sir Nigel Crisp from the Department of Health, Sir John Gieve from the Home Office, Sir David Normington from the Department for Education and Sir Gus O'Donnell from the Treasury. They were all interviewed by the Prime Minister, before he made a final decision. Sir Andrew will retired this summer, and Sir Gus's salary would be determined by an independent renumeration committee, chaired by the chairman of the Senior Salaries Reumeration Body.

Asked if there had been any external consultants involved in the decision, the PMOS said it was handled in the normal way, on the advice of Sir Andrew Turnbull, with input from the Civil Service Commissioner. A story this week that David Bennett had been involved was wrong.

Asked if Sir John Birt had been asked for any input or views regarding the position, the PMOS said the appointment was made by the Prime Minister.

Asked what the range of salaries was, the PMOS said they ranged from £155, 08 up to £264,250 for Permanent Secretary Band C.

Put to the PMOS that as the position was such a senior one, should it not be paid "top rate", the PMOS said it was decided by the Independent Renumeration Committee, and it was better therefore to leave the decision to them.

Asked if the Prime Minister had consulted the Chancellor about the position, the PMOS said the decision had been made by the Prime Minister.

Asked if the Prime Minister had considered the importance of a smooth transition in making the appointment, the PMOS replied that the decision had been made purely on the merits of the individual, and the needs of the Civil Service at this time. It was on that basis that Sir Andrew drew up a shortlist, and from the list, that the Prime Minister made his decision.

Asked if Sir Gus's role would be the same as Sir Andrew's role, the PMOS said he was not aware of any planned changes, but Sir Gus and the Prime Minister would talk about the precise role that Sir Gus would play.

Asked if the Prime Minister was "relaxed" about the salary range, the PMOS said the important thing was that we not only recognised the very heavy burden that the Head of the Civil Service carried, but also the large scope of the job, and finally that the figure was arrived at by an independent body. The PMOS said all those factors needed to be taken into account.

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Comments

Interesting! And good to see the PM's personal effort to ensure fair play by installing himself as the sole interviewer. No doubt the criteria and short list had been carefully fixed by Andrew before Tony had to 'select' the interviewees, thereby eliminating the tedious necessity of having to weed out those who might give trouble.

So the PMOS does not deny that Birt may have been involved, but does apparently deny that Brown was consulted prior to O'Donnell's appointment. No 10 up to its usual tricks then.

Even so, there's no indication as to what O'Donnell will actually be doing for his chunky remuneration. Sort of 'make the job up as you go along' stuff.

Can we really justify a quarter of a million salary on this?

Posted by Chuck Unsworth on 15 Jun 2005 20:34 | Link | Abusive comment?

"Even so, there's no indication as to what O'Donnell will actually be doing for his chunky remuneration. Sort of 'make the job up as you go along' stuff."

He is Secretary to the Cabinet and Head of the Home Civil Service (all 500,000 of them), so I don't suppose he'll be playing Minesweeper all day. What do company Chief Executives 'do'?

"Can we really justify a quarter of a million salary on this?"

Well, Dr. Klaus Kleinfeld, the CEO of Siemens (also with about 500,000 staff), gets paid US$2.3m per year, plus share options. Rick Wagoner (General Motors, also about 500,000 staff) was paid $13m last year, with another $12m in unexercised stock options. 250,000 max seems like rather a bargain, to be honest.

Posted by Marek Ostrowski on 15 Jun 2005 22:17 | Link | Abusive comment?

Well, Dr. Klaus Kleinfeld, the CEO of Siemens (also with about 500,000 staff), gets paid US$2.3m per year, plus share options. Rick Wagoner (General Motors, also about 500,000 staff) was paid $13m last year, with another $12m in unexercised stock options. 250,000 max seems like rather a bargain, to be honest.


yes but these people you mention actually DO something don't they - and they are held responsible - now how do you rate the new man and his salary?

Posted by Roger on 15 Jun 2005 23:22 | Link | Abusive comment?

The Cabinet Secretary's job includes (just a random list):
* attending Cabinet and Cabinet Committee meetings
* managing relationships with the Palace
* chairing the 'Wednesday morning' meetings of Departmental Permanent Secretaries
* leading the Civil Service - setting HR and development goals, and working on the future of the civil service
* mediating in disputes between Permanent Secretaries
* responsibility for the security and intelligence machinery within the Cabinet Office
* running the Cabinet Office (about 1,000 staff)
* Ethical and propriety issues in the work of the civil service, and relationships with special advisers.

I've worked with Gus O'Donnell in the past, and I have a lot of respect for him. He's much more active and down-to-earth than Andrew Turnbull. As for the salary, I think he'd come cheap at double the price.

Posted by Marek Ostrowski on 16 Jun 2005 07:37 | Link | Abusive comment?

Excellent - it's good that someone has an idea as to what Gus might be doing. Sadly, the PMOS quite obviously did not, and that was but one of the (several) points...... After all, if the PMOS cannot provide a job description for this appointment, what are we paying for?

Whether the man is worth this salary (or double) remains to be seen - and I suppose that depends on what he does - but it's heartening to see that (one of) those acquainted with Gus is convinced of his eminent worthiness and suitability. Note that if he were working in the commercial field his future and tenure of office might be just a touch less assured. I don't see many civil servants being ejected by the executive board and/or shareholders. And the benefits and value to us all of the Home Civil Service are regrettably a matter for conjecture.

Nice to see that someone is actually (if, partially) reading this stuff, nontheless.

Posted by Chuck Unsworth on 16 Jun 2005 11:18 | Link | Abusive comment?

He will be no more or less accountable than the MPs in this democratic dictatorship.

Posted by Dave on 16 Jun 2005 13:45 | Link | Abusive comment?

I've worked with Gus O'Donnell in the past, and I have a lot of respect for him. He's much more active and down-to-earth than Andrew Turnbull. As for the salary, I think he'd come cheap at double the price.

How did we guess that you were connected? The appointment doesn't change a thing and especially so with the current government who appear to run a merry go round or should that be gravy train for a select few - or maybe they don't know anybody else? At least your friend is new but his appointment will not change a thing - sorry for you.

Posted by Roger on 16 Jun 2005 13:57 | Link | Abusive comment?

"How did we guess that you were connected?"

It's a bit stupid that I can be accused of bias just because I've worked with someone in the past. We're not best mates, I don't go golfing with him, I haven't married his daughter. I just think he's good at what he does.

A quick dose of perspective. Gus (or 'Gussy-wussy' as I always call him on our long camping holidays) is a Permanent Secretary in the civil service. This is not something that one becomes overnight as the result of Blair/Brown favouritism. Sure, he's well-liked in the Government, but that's because he does a good job. He was well-liked by the Tories, too (he was Major's press secretary).

Cynicism will eat itself, you know. Don't come crying to me when a fascist takes over.

Posted by Marek Ostrowski on 17 Jun 2005 22:59 | Link | Abusive comment?

It's been a long time since we had a permanent secretary who stood up to the PM - Douglas Wass? - if Gus O'Donnell has similar balls he will be more than worth his money.

Posted by Mr Pooter on 18 Jun 2005 05:15 | Link | Abusive comment?

Actually the fascists are in power right now. Take a measured look at the 'security' measures etc that have been recently imposed or proposed and you'll recognise great similarity with Mussolini's Italy etc.

Criticism is not (necessarily) cynicism, and, as noted, being 'liked' does not equate to efficiency or effectiveness at work.

On re-reading the comments so far I don't think anyone has actually accused Marek of anything - but perhaps I've missed something.

As to camping - well some are obviously more familiar than others with camp issues.

I doubt that many of today's senior civil servants would display the levels of personal courage and integrity of their illustrious predecessors. This is one of the sad effects of the monstrous policisation of their posts.

Posted by Chuck Unsworth on 18 Jun 2005 12:02 | Link | Abusive comment?

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