HR chiefs ‘reshuffled’ as part of Whitehall people strategy initiative

The HR merry-go-round within government departments continues with two high-profile directors moving into new roles.

Kevin White, the long-serving director-general of HR at the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), has moved to a similar role at the Home Office.

He replaces John Marsh, who has been seconded to the Cabinet Office until September to join a team focusing on professionalising the HR function across government.

The shake-up is part of a wider initiative spearheaded by Gill Rider, the Cabinet Office’s director-general of leadership and people strategy, which has seen a number of senior HR professionals switched to different roles.

White’s often controversial tenure at the DWP has been blighted by an ongoing and bitter dispute with the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) over job cuts, HR policy changes and low pay.

Relationships with the union reached a new low earlier this year when PCS leader Mark Serwotka branded the DWP’s management team, including White, the “worst in the public sector”, and blamed it for a series of strikes.

One union insider told Personnel Today that staff were happy that White was leaving. “It’s a case of so long and good riddance,” he said.

White also hit the headlines in 2004, after a leaked memo revealed he had described female career civil servants as lacking ambition and having “no incentive to progress”.

A PCS spokesman said the union looked forward to dealing with White’s successor. “It’s important the new person sees the value of engaging with the workforce,” he said.

Marsh came under fire following the Home Office’s dismal capability review last year. The review found significant weaknesses in the department’s people management and leadership.

White’s move leaves a vacancy for one of the biggest HR roles in the UK – the £150,000-a-year HR leader job at the DWP.

Two other senior government positions are also up for grabs – head of HR strategy at the new Ministry of Justice, and HR director at the Border and Immigration Agency.

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