Whilst a recruitment process is underway to find a full-time successor to head up the Government Digital Service (GDS), following the departure of Director General Kevin Cunnington, Alison Pritchard begins her first week as the department’s interim chief.
It was announced back in June that Cunnington would be stepping down from his role, following three years of service in the top job. Cunnington is off to become the Director General of the new International Government Service (IGS), a joint initiative between the Foreign Office, Cabinet Office and the Department for International Trade.
The official remit of IGS is not yet clear, but the mile-high mission statement is to promote the work of government services, not just digital, to other countries. It’s likely that this ambition is being accelerated but the UK’s anticipated exit from the European Union in October (if the new deadline is to be taken seriously…).
Pritchard begins her first full week, this week, as the new boss of GDS, having previously served as the department’s Director for EU Exit and Transformation.
Pritchard thanked her predecessor on Twitter and said she was looking forward to getting started on her new role as Director General. She said:
It's an incredible privilege to be leading @GDSTeam from today. My sincere thanks to @kevincunnington for all that he's done for us over the last three years. Great luck in the new role. No honeymoon period for me. Too much to do and excited about doing it during my time as DG.
— Alison Pritchard (@alisonpritchard) August 1, 2019
It is unclear how long Pritchard will remain in post or how long the recruitment process for the full time Director General of GDS will take.
Cunnington has a mixed record during his time at GDS. One one hand he has done a pretty remarkable job of focusing on skills, the different academies and training people across government in digital, data and tech. On the other hand there are few ‘big’ achievements to take note of and he has overseen the loss of the Digital Marketplace to CCS and data policy to DCMS.
Upon announcing his departure in an email to his colleagues, Cunnington said:
GDS is a unique organisation, in a unique position in government. Our role continues to grow, as we announced in February, my successor will lead the integration of the digital function across Cabinet Office as well as GDS. The last 3 years have been both exciting and challenging at times.
GDS has established itself as a driving force at the centre of government and I will miss being a part of it. I’m sure the organisation will go from strength to strength and I look forward to working with many of you in my new role.
It’s been our position for a while that new leadership was needed in GDS to focus the agenda and to bring some fresh thinking to the table. With that in mind, we welcome Alison Pritchard and look forward to seeing what she has in store for the department!