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GDS starts to fill vacancies in leadership team after recent executive departures

Government Digital Service chief Kevin Cunnington announces two new appointments, after the departures of five former directors

The Government Digital Service (GDS) has started to fill some of the vacancies in its leadership team created by recent executive departures. Two new appointments have been announced by GDS director general Kevin Cunnington.

In one, Arif Harbott, formerly chief digital and information officer at the Ministry of Justice, is replacing Susana Berlevy, previously human resources director for the digital, data and technology profession, who left GDS recently for a job at Lloyds of London.

Harbott has joined on a short-term basis to lead the programme to develop skills, recruitment, training and career paths for IT experts across the civil service. He will also be in charge of the Digital Academy operation that Cunnington first set up in his previous job at the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), and which has since transferred into GDS.

Cunnington said in October that he wants to open up four new academy locations around the UK to boost capacity for training civil servants in digital know-how, with the aim of training 3,000 staff every year.

In the second appointment, Emily Ackroyd is joining GDS as director of policy and engagement. Formerly senior policy adviser for welfare, employment and pensions at 10 Downing Street, Ackroyd’s role will be a job share, working with Whitehall departments to “bridge the gap between policy and delivery”, according to Cunnington.

Ackroyd’s job is a partial replacement for Janet Hughes, formerly head of strategy, policy and departmental engagement at GDS, who left in August.

There was no detail in the latest announcement about who will fulfil the strategy aspects of Hughes’ former job, although Computer Weekly understands that ex-DWP head of business design Andrew Besford is effectively in that role as Cunnington develops the new government digital transformation strategy, due to be published before the end of 2016.  

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“Arif and Emily are here to ensure that GDS can work effectively with other departments to transform government together,” said Cunnington, in a blog post.

“Our priority is to transform the relationship between citizen and the state. Our success depends on getting the right people in the team. We want to hire the best people, wherever they’re from, who can support, enable and assure departments as we undertake digital transformation.”

Hughes and Berlevy were among five of the nine-strong GDS management team in place before Cunnington’s appointment in August who have since left or announced they are leaving.

Cunnington’s predecessor, Stephen Foreshew-Cain, left soon after the announcement that Cunnington was being brought in over his head.

Computer Weekly revealed in early October that Paul Maltby, the GDS director of data, was also leaving later this year when his secondment from the Home Office concludes. GDS chief technology officer Andy Beale also announced in October that he was leaving at the end of the year.

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