A “best friend” of Francis Maude joins Cabinet Office as COO

By Tony Collins

Troubleshooting Stephen Kelly, a “best friend” of Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude, is taking over as Chief Operating Officer of Government at the Cabinet Office. He also has Ian Watmore’s old job of head of the Cabinet Office’s Efficiency and Reform Group.

A profile of Kelly in the Daily Telegraph last year suggested he was a caricature of someone who was most likely to annoy civil servants. The Telegraph’s Louise Armitstead said Kelly had

“Longish hair, combed back with ‘product’, loud tie, edgy suit, transatlantic drawl – and the enthusiasm of an untrained golden retriever.”

He has a reputation for cheerfully taking on toxic projects and making them work. He has been in charge of the Coalition’s plan to mutualise parts of the public sector.

He was chief executive of Micro Focus, a small UK software company that he helped to turn around.

The Cabinet Office says Kelly will “enable the Government to go even further with its crucial efficiency and reform agenda and build on the £5.5bn of efficiency savings achieved last year”.

He led the successful delivery of MyCSP – the first ‘John Lewis-style’ mutual to spin out from central government. It administers pensions for the 1.5 million Civil Service Scheme members.

Cabinet Office Permanent Secretary, Richard Heaton, said, “Stephen is one of the most successful CEOs from the private sector and has already proven himself within Government.”

Maude said, “I’ve always said Government needs to function more like the best run businesses and this new appointment, which will strengthen the corporate centre at the heart of Whitehall, is another step towards meeting that goal.

“… We want to go much further in cutting waste, saving money and streamlining Whitehall.  Stephen brings expertise and charisma to this crucial role and I look forward to working with him…”

Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Danny Alexander, said Kelly will help to pioneer change in the public sector, “building on the significant progress already made in making Whitehall more efficient and helping to put Britain’s public finances back on track”.

The appointment was made following an external competition.


A good appointment but the best don’t stay long.

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