DCMS leader Sue Owen on EU exit, data ethics – and Jordan Pickford
Outgoing departmental boss reflects on a busy year
Credit: Louise Haywood-Schiefer
The annual perm secs round-up published by PublicTechnology sister publication Civil Service World sees Whitehall's senior leaders open up on their biggest challenges and opportunities - as well as their thoughts on how best to mark the festive season. Here Dame Sue Owen (pictured above), who is coming to end of her tenure as permanent secretary of the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, reflects on the last 12 months.
What was your highlight of 2018?
Big events like the Great Exhibition of the North, the Hockey Women’s World Cup, and the programme of moving World War One centenary commemorations are some of our popular highlights. And in only our second year since adding “Digital” to our name, we’ve announced the Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation, stimulated millions of pounds of investment in the rollout of fibre optic cable, and passed tough new laws against online ticket touts.
What was the hardest part of being a leader in 2018?
In DCMS all four of our Commons ministers posts changed hands, twice for secretary of state! But we’re good at leading through that kind of change in DCMS. For me, the hardest thing in 2018 was losing Jeremy Heywood, with whom I worked on and off for over 30 years.
What are the main challenges facing your department in the coming year?
Every department faces challenges associated with EU exit, and with our sectors making up 25% of UK businesses, DCMS is no exception. This ranges from obvious issues such as continuing to grow our tourism sector, to more subtle ones such as ensuring the free flow of data between European and British businesses. We’ll also be meeting the challenge of legislating against some of the more insidious online harms, such as cyberbullying and abuse.
Which celebrity or historical figure would you choose to turn on the Christmas lights in your town, and why?
Jordan Pickford, Everton and England goalie – because my dad’s ashes are under the pitch at Goodison Park.
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