Head of the Civil Service

The Civil Service is led by the cabinet secretary. The current cabinet secretary is Sir Gus O’Donnell.

Sir Gus is known as the head of the Home Civil Service. The Home Civil Service is made up of all HM Government organisations (except for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office). It also includes the Welsh Assembly Government and the Scottish Government.

Permanent secretaries

The most senior civil servant in a department is a permanent secretary. Each supports the government minister who heads their department and who is accountable to Parliament for the department’s actions and performance.

The permanent secretary is the ‘accounting officer’ for their department, reporting to Parliament. They must make sure their department spends the money allocated to them appropriately.

The permanent secretary leading a department is also responsible to the cabinet secretary and head of the Home Civil Service for the effective day-to-day management of their department and its civil servants.

The permanent secretary of Scottish Government is accountable to the Scottish Parliament. Likewise, the permanent secretary of Welsh Assembley Government is accountable to the National Assembly for Wales. The permanent secretaries for both Scottish Government and Welsh Assembley Government contribute to the Civil Service governance along with other permanent secretaries.

Our governing bodies

Our leaders need to set a clear overall direction for the Civil Service so that all our different organisations work as a coherent and effective whole.

The head of the Civil Service is supported in this by all his permanent secretaries through the Civil Service Governance Boards. These boards consider the issues that are important to all departments and decide on the best way forward for the whole Civil Service.

All of the permanent secretary accounting officers meet quarterly on the Permanent Secretaries Management Group (PSMG). This board make all the key strategic decisions on the future of the Civil Service.

Beneath this is the Civil Service Steering Board (CSSB), which is also chaired by the Head of the Civil Service. This board meets monthly to address current issues and specific areas that PSMG asks it to concentrate on.

There are also sub-groups which develop policies and proposals for PSMG to consider, and decide upon on long-term issues such as leadership and employee relations.

And finally, there is the Top 200 community. This is a group of the most senior Civil Service leaders that is on hand to examine specific issues and give specialist advice to PSMG and CSSB.

In this way all of the permanent secretaries are involved in the long-term development of the Civil Service.