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Key IT influencer Ian Watmore quits civil service

Bryan Glick

Ian Watmore, permanent secretary at the Cabinet Office and one of the main drivers of the government's IT strategy, is leaving the civil service next month.

Watmore's departure completes what has become a total overhaul of the top team responsible for implementing the Whitehall IT plan, following the departures of former government CIO Joe Harley and his deputy Bill McCluggage in the last six months– as well as the retirement of G-Cloud chief Chris Chant last month.

Watmore's influence goes back even further – he was the first ever government CIO in 2004, led the Prime Minister's Delivery Unit under Tony Blair, and more recently set up and managed the Efficiency and Reform Group (ERG) charged with transforming Whitehall-wide spending in areas such as procurement and property as well as IT.

In an interview with Computer Weekly in February, Watmore said that he had already started stepping back from his IT responsibilities.

“I can create space for the people who really know what they are talking about to do the right things. I am not that person today, I am not the sort of person who is 100% up to date with the skillsets we need to work in this environment. I was once but I’m not anymore and I recognise that,” he said.

Melanie Dawes, currently director general of the Economic and Domestic Secretariat in the Cabinet Office will be acting permanent secretary until a successor is found.

In the last two months, Andy Nelson was appointed as government CIO and Liam Maxwell as his deputy, while Denise McDonagh succeeded Chant as head of the G-Cloud programme.

Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude highlighted Watmore's contribution to cost savings across Whitehall from areas including IT.

“Ian has played an important role in establishing the Efficiency and Reform Group within the Cabinet Office. This group put in place tough cross-Whitehall controls on property, procurement and ICT in 2010. As a result we have helped departments deliver billions of pounds in cash savings for the taxpayer. He has assembled an enormously impressive team in ERG who will carry forward this crucial agenda," he said.

The Cabinet Office said in a statement that Watmore is returning to his home in the north west of England "to focus on non-executive and spousal roles in charity, sports, academic and church activities."


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